With Free Beer and Sharp Wit, the Bar Politics Troupe Skewers Local Politics

Laughing like they were listening to a Louis CK monologue, more than 300 young cosmopolites at the Hickory Street Annex earlier this week cheered and jeered while the comedians of Bar Politics solemnly read the text of a business community Super PAC TV ad tied to the June 13 Dallas City Council run-off elections. Think about it. Twentysomethings not only paying attention to local Dallas politics but laughing. I had to pinch myself repeatedly to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke.

When the Bar Politics troupe got to a list of names of members of Dallas Citizens Council types who appeared in the ad – John Scovell (Woodbine Corp.) , Jere Thompson Jr.  (Ambit Energy), Lee Jackson (chancellor, UNT System) and many more – the crowd hissed like the audience at a 1920s silent film melodrama booing the handlebar-mustached villains.

The audience, mostly young and with the appearance of gainful employment or promising creativity, sat for an hour with an air of engagement while half a dozen comedians performed satirical skits based on things like Dallas freeway alignments. Urban infrastructure! And funny! To me it was like a magic show.

Bar Politics, led by the rambunctiously puckish Josh Kumler and made up mainly of recent SMU theater grads, bases its routines on the ridiculous assumption that young people in Dallas may even give a shit about local politics. And maybe they do. But it’s worth also mentioning there was free beer at this event in a trendy old-brick venue near Deep Ellum.

While the crowd jeered and sneered on cue for all mentions of the Citizens Council, the evening’s much funnier fare was self-skewering, making fun of young cosmopolites desperately seeking relevance. Stephen Gardner did an entire rapid-fire monologue on his attempts to interview tent-city dwelling homeless people who will be displaced from beneath an elevated freeway downtown if the cosmopolites get their dream of seeing that freeway torn down:

“I went to the tent city to interview the residents there to get them to sell me on their swell set-up. However, when I drove by there, twice, both times I was too scared to actually [get out of the car], because the entire middle class white American thing that got me in the car in the first place to go interview real people for a fake news show to acknowledge their tragedy could only go so far.”

The event was billed as a roast of a local Super PAC – not the Citizens Council one but another one most of the audience actually likes — that has been putting money into council races of candidates who favor tearing down I-345 downtown and may also oppose building a toll road along the river. Call that one the New Urban hipster PAC.

But the Bar Politics funny guys went after that PAC with a tickle-feather while they attacked the opposing business PAC, strongly in favor of the toll road, with a rapier. So following along was a little tricky: making fun but not really of “Coalition for a New Dallas” (the one they like) and seriously ripping “For Our Community” (the one they really do not like that is funded by super-bucks guys like oilman Ray Hunt and real estate mogul Harlan Crow).

Some of the evening's routines were out-and-out tough, like Elizabeth Berkman’s skewering of racism in the anti-apartment movement sentiments of some North Dallas neighborhoods. But Kumler, as a beer-fueled Jon-Stewart-style emcee, kept things bouncing along.

And, as I said already, somewhere in that crowd an old dude kept pinching himself, maybe to make sure it was all really real, or maybe just because he was suddenly feeling happy and was worried it might be one of those symptoms they warn you about on TV.

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