Young Stand-up Comedians Stand Up for Hillary

Benari Poulten

On a stage in Gold Sounds, a bar in Bushwick, Rachel Coleman stood in front a Hillary Clinton banner and started her comedy act with a dig at two Republican presidential candidates. “I’m way more scared of Ted Cruz than I am of Donald Trump,” she said, “Trump is like a nerd in high school, trying to be cool with the popular kids—he’s like, ‘Hey Tiffany, I hate Mexicans too! My dad has a pool table. Come over!’” She paused for the high-pitched laughter of about a hundred people in the audience before delivering the crux of her joke—“Whereas Ted Cruz would come to your house and personally steal your birth control. And then give you the creepiest kiss on the forehead. Terrifying.”

Coleman is one of 11 stand-up comedians who spoke at “Chillary NYC,” hosted by Heather Fink, a part-time comedian and full-time filmmaker. The event, which started at 11:59 p.m. on April 16 and ended at 4 a.m. on Sunday the 17th, was a last-minute show that Fink organized because she felt “it was time.” She said she thought it essential to create a positive event to lighten people up, have fun, and “provide a happy space where we can openly support Hillary Clinton and speak our minds without hateful Facebook comments and Twitter trolls.”

Coleman, too, speaking just before her act, talked about the onslaught of negative social media attention that she says Clinton supporters receive. “A lot of comedians have been in the closet for being Hillary Clinton supporters. We whisper about it in parties,” she said. “I’m a comedian and I go to open mics often, and every time I bring up Hillary the men in the room all suck in their breath.” She continued, “My friends and I, we whisper about it because we don’t want to get into a fight—the Bernie Bros are always yelling at us!”

Fink says she knows a lot of Hillary supporters who are in the closet, “because they don’t want to deal with the nagging of the Berners.” But, she added, “If Brooklyn is Bernie’s terrain, he’s on my turf because I’m with her.”

While the description of the event called for a Hillary-inspired pantsuit theme, there were no pantsuits, unfortunately. Still, there were lots of jokey jabs at the Bernie Bros.  “The Bernie slogan—feel the Bern—it makes sense, right?” Jena Friedman, another comedian, asked the crowd. “Because it makes him sound like an STD, and that’s fine because it’s catering to his target demographic of Bros under 25.” She continued, amid roaring laughter, with this zinger: “Also, I want to know who his running mate will be—his dialysis machine? I mean, the slogan should be, ‘feel the urn.’” And then she dropped the mic.

The lineup was pretty evenly split between male and female comedians. When it was Benari Poulten’s turn, he didn’t hold back. “We keep saying we don’t hate women. In 2008 when she came along, people were like, ‘It’s time for a black guy to be president!’ Fine, she’ll wait,” he said, “Alright, it’s a woman’s turn now except everyone’s like, ‘You know what? We’re ready for a socialist Jew! Who’s ready for a socialist Jew?!’” He screamed into the crowd, “Are you fucking kidding me? That’s how much they don’t like women.”

For female comedians supporting Clinton, this resonated. Before the show started, three of the comedians—Hilary Schwartz, Katie Compa, and Selena Coppock—were talking about secret social media Hillary Clinton support groups they are all a part of. “It invites a lot of conflict to say you’re pro-Hillary,” said Compa. “I’m part of one secret Facebook group and I joined it after I got a lot of hate for posting something pro-Hillary on my wall. The Bernie Bros would not stop telling me how ‘wrong’ and ‘ignorant’ I was.”

Schwartz said she senses a ring of shame around Clinton supporters in her comedian circles—“we’re definitely in the minority.”

Coppock agreed: “She’s painted as this stodgy old woman,” she said, “and a lot of her supporters have been verbally threatened by Bernie Bros, and so this event is perfect because it’s like all of us are coming out of the woodwork.”

For Compa, when someone attacks Hillary Clinton,“I take it personally,” she said.  “My mom is a CEO, and watching her career, I’ve seen Hillary dealing with a lot of the same stuff that my mom dealt with.”

All three said they are “most definitely” going to be voting for Clinton in the primaries on Tuesday.

Throughout the night and early morning, there seemed to be a running theme of positivity and ‘chillness’—“This is great—‘Look, Hillary people can do late night shows too, we’re also young and hip!’” Poulten exclaimed in self-parody during his act. But indeed, the comedians said that the event was based on the idea of the off-beat Hillary Clinton Brooklyn supporter—young-minded, positive people, laughing and bonding over just how cool and chill Hillary Clinton really is. “There are just so many Bernie things happening and so many young people and its like, ‘We do fun shit too!’” Compa said with a laugh. Liam McEneany, another comedian in the lineup, joked about this—“Having a Hillary event in the middle of cool Bushwick? That takes some balls.”

Almost everyone in the audience sported some kind of outward support for Clinton—campaign stickers and badges, her name scrawled on their skin,  T-shirts with Hillary Clinton’s face emblazoned on them.

But some were looking beyond the primary election. Emma Frederick, who was in the audience, is working on the campaign and had spent the day canvassing. “I just finished having a dinner party at my house and it was 50 percent Bernie and 50 percent Hillary,” she said, “but it was 100 percent united.”

As the comedy show starts to wind down, the last two acts were interrupted—by a Bernie Sanders supporter, lurking in the crowd. Once he was spotted, he was asked by Fink to come on to the stage. “I want you to know I appreciate what you’re doing,” he said, “I’m in no way going to tell you you’re stupid or wrong. This is how we get stuff done.” The “traveling supporter” (that’s how he introduced himself) said he has 6,500 miles under his belt for Bernie—“I’m a true believer, but I’m here to tell you we can work together.”

Before taking the stage for her act, Coleman stood outside, smoking a cigarette that stopped burning because she moved her hands so animatedly while talking about her support for Clinton. “Look, I’ll support Bernie if he is the nominee,” she said. “But I’m so excited for the 19th to come and go because everyone is being so fucking mean about it.”