“The world is crazy, it’s just mean. Do I blame Donald Trump? Of course I do.”
This is Wanda Sykes trying to find the brighter side of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The legendary comedian was one of several high-profile actors, comedians and performers who took part in the Deportation Jamboree in New York City on Wednesday night. Created and hosted by comedian and actor Aasif Mandvi, the event served as both a fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)—already about $100,000 has been raised from online donations and ticket sales—and a welcome chance to laugh about a world that, for many people, seems to be rapidly spinning out of control.
Mandvi, who is Indian-American, is best known for working as a correspondent on The Daily Show. In 2013, one of his segments went viral—it was about voter ID laws, of all things. He interviewed Don Yelton, a GOP precinct chairman for Buncombe County, North Carolina, who later was asked to resign after saying of the voter ID law: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks…so be it.”
“A few weeks ago I was sitting around and my fiance said, ‘Why don’t you use your celebrity for good instead of evil, which is what you’ve been doing’,” Mandvi tells Newsweek (half-jokingly). “I thought, that’s an interesting concept.” Tickets for the event sold out in two days, he says. “I’ve become an event planner for the last two weeks, which is a whole new world for me. But it’s been great.”
Digs at Trump, his family, his administration and his properties were a recurring part of the evening. Of the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, Skyes said: “You couldn’t pay me to spend a night in that tacky-ass joint.” And in a bit that brought screams of laughter from the audience, Skyes asked: “Why does Tiffany Trump have a Secret Service detail? No one gives a shit about Tiffany Trump.” She concluded that Tiffany “should have a mall cop” instead, and then imitated an officer on a Segway, a la Paul Blart.
The Deportation Jamboree also saw performances from comedian Lewis Black, actor Connie Britton—who read an excerpt from Shakespeare’s The Book of Sir Thomas More—Questlove and Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata. (Zamata tells Newsweek she wants to more chances to portray Omarosa, the former Apprentice contestant turned White House employee.) Actor Riz Ahmed and artist Himanshu Suri also performed as Swet Shop Boys. Some of the lyrics from “T5,” one of the songs the rap group performed, were chanted by demonstrators at airports across the U.S. during protests against the travel ban earlier this year: “Inshallah, mashallah, hopefully no martial law.”
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“In these times, it’s for artists and activists to come together and fight the racism and the prejudice and the demagoguery that tends to be everywhere right now,” says Mandvi.
His event was held days before Trump marks his 100th day in office this Saturday. Advocates for immigrants and women’s rights say his term has been marked by a failure to do, well, much of anything, especially after his landmark health care reform bill failed. Despite posturing during his campaign that 100 days was an important marker, Trump reversed course earlier this week by calling it “an artificial barrier” and a “ridiculous standard.”
Zamata says that while comedians are “always providing an extra lens on what’s happening in our society, whether it be culturally or politically,” she has noticed her audiences becoming more receptive to material related to current events and discrimination.“People want to talk about these things because a lot of people’s rights are being challenged and a lot of things need to be considered more than usual,” she says. “It’s a sign of the times that it’s happening like this. Politics has always played a part in comedy.”
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