'I'm a Political Comedian, Trump Fans Are Heckling Me More Than Ever'

On November 21, 2005, I took the stage at the legendary stand-up comedy venue; Caroline's on Broadway in New York City. From that point on until the COVID-19 pandemic struck this year, I have been performing constantly.

I would spend the majority of each year on the road and I loved every minute of it. So, I miss performing a lot but I've been doing what a lot of other performers have been doing—rocking back and forth in a fetal position waiting for this to be over.

I grew up in Toms River, New Jersey, which I describe as a nice town, unless you've been to other towns. It's basically a small shore town that you drive through to get to all the cooler shore towns. It's about as far east in New Jersey you can go before you get wet. Imagine the type of place people rent cheap summer homes so they could get black out drunk in a cab on their way to maybe do drugs with their friends in a better shore town.

I went to high school during the George W. Bush administration, 9/11 and its aftermath and I grew up watching and admiring comics who dove into the socio-political side of comedy. Comics like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, and Dave Chapelle were the comedians who were on TV constantly and really distilled, comedically, a lot of what was happening in the world for my friends and I. Through that process comedians in general have a way of really breaking down and cutting through a lot of the fear and anxiety that can exist in the world.

comedy, heckling, Donald Trump
John Poveromo is a Brooklyn-born, Jersey-raised comedian. In the lead up to the U.S. Presidential election, Poveromo says he has seen an increase in heckling from Trump supporters. Courtesy of John Poveromo

As long as there have been comedians there have been jokes told at the expense of someone's personal politics. In the last few years things feel like they have shifted drastically. Since President Donald Trump took over office in 2016 the political landscape seems to have corroded to the point that if a comic makes a joke at the left's expense the reaction is as if you strapped an endangered animal to the hood of your car and ploughed through a climate change march. Conversely, if you make a joke at the right's expense the response will be as if you were running a deep state Hollywood pedo-sex-ring pizza parlor out of your basement.

I like to say that there are no victims of jokes, only people who can't take them. I've performed jokes about Democrats, liberals, millennials, and the #MeToo movement, and never been heckled for any of it. In my experience, the closer it's gotten to this election the more viscerally hateful Trump's supporters have become. I've been on stage and only mentioned Trump's name and had audience members get so irate they've had to be physically removed from the venue.

I did a gig in Phoenix, Arizona a year or so ago and once I got off stage the manager of the club wouldn't let me leave the main room because a Trump supporter was waiting outside to, in his words, "beat the hell out of me" for mocking his President. My life was threatened over a joke. Which is odd when you think about it because comedians comment on the zeitgeist, we don't pass legislation.

The most recent incident I shared, and it went viral on TikTok. I was performing to a packed house. During the last 15 minutes of my set I started to weigh in on what was going on in the country and with Trump. Two jokes in and the chanting started: "U-S-A", "U-S-A", "TRUMP 2020", "U-S-A." I could tell it was only one table in the back and one off to the side, but it felt like we had quickly morphed from a comedy club to a minefield.

This is where the importance of comedy around an election, especially one as divisive as the U.S. Presidential election, comes in. Comedy is a way of releasing pressure from a situation. Like steam from a kettle. The problem is some people can get offended that you're even touching their kettle in the first place.

In truth, I have been heckled far more by Trump fans than the left. But it's also true that the left are touchy about what they support.

I strongly believe that comedy is more important now than ever, because of this tendency of people to prickle at ideas they don't like. A comedian can point out the hypocrisy in claiming you're for something just to be the opposite of the other side in a way that makes people laugh. We can show people that it's kind of like the face of a coin hating the fact that it has a reverse side. Jokes highlight the flaws on both sides.

Since this pandemic and leading up to the election, my voice has only gotten louder, and as far as post election goes, no matter the result I intend to keep it at the same volume. As a consequence of all of this I've been accused of having a "radical left wing political agenda."

The reality is, I just want everyone to have healthcare. I want police reform and I want politicians to focus on climate change. Basically it's about having less death in the world. I feel like, moving forward, we could really use ALL our elected officials getting behind my "less death" agenda.

John Poveromo is a Brooklyn-born, Jersey-raised comedian who can be seen in his new short film on Amazon Prime titled, "Duppet." He can also be heard on SiriusXM radio and his new weekly podcast "Dystopia Tonight" starting this week. You can follow him on Twitter @johnpoveromo, on Tik Tok @johnpoveromo

All views expressed in this piece are the writer's own.