Jeremy McLellan joins us this week to talk about his brand of politics and comedy. Does humor have a place in changing people’s political beliefs?
You can find McLellan’s comedy on Twitter and Facebook.
Aaron Powell: Welcome to Free Thoughts from Libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute. I’m Aaron Powell.
Trevor Burrus: I’m Trevor Burrus.
Aaron Powell: Our guest today is the comedian Jeremy McLellan. How do you get started in comedy?
Jeremy McLellan: Okay. Basically I was an angry guy. I was really intense and would get into arguments with people all the time about politics and culture and things like that. [00:00:30] I didn’t have like a creative outlet for it. I was always clever but like my friends were comedians and they were like, “You should try it,” and so I did. That’s what happened.
Trevor Burrus: This was when you’re in college or something or?
Jeremy McLellan: No, no, no. This was four years ago. I’m pretty new.
Trevor Burrus: What did you do before that?
Jeremy McLellan: I worked with people with disabilities. I worked for people with … I worked for the Charleston County Disabilities Board. I was the trainer of the caregivers on how to interact [00:01:00] with people with disabilities.
Trevor Burrus: It sounds like you could say that your comedy and your desire to even do comedies stemmed directly from your political beliefs?
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah. You don’t want to be preachy and you don’t want to be like, “Well, I have beliefs,” and then I’m going to try and make them funny. That’s never what you want to do with comedy. There is a … Yeah, it is something that was an [00:01:30] artistic expression, artistic avenue for stuff that I thought and like passions that I had. It was actually helpful as opposed to just arguing with people.
Aaron Powell: Let me take the other side of the opening question. How did you come to Libertarianism?
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, it depends. I’m broadly libertarian but it started … I had like people [00:02:00] who are close to me who are immigrants who ended up getting deported. That was big real change because it was just like, okay, so why is there this like bureaucracy that gets to decide whether people can work here or be here. That led me to things. Then obviously I was already like very hardcore like civil libertarian and then it just … I ended up in the [00:02:30] fold and it just blossomed. I don’t necessarily … I’m not extremely ideological. I don’t think ideologically. I just think I have a collection of beliefs about things that everyone already knows and those put together put me in the fold of being libertarian.
Trevor Burrus: Maybe that actually helps with the comedy compared to someone who came into libertarianism [00:03:00] by reading all of Hayek’s work. It sounds like [crosstalk 00:03:05]
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah. I don’t know if people actually … Do people actually become libertarian by like adopting first principles?
Trevor Burrus: No, no. No way.
Jeremy McLellan: Let’s find out what those principles results in.
Trevor Burrus: That would be me to a larger extent.
Aaron Powell: Yeah, that’ll probably also be me. We’re pretty weird outliers.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s very common. I think people generally have affections and they end up with [00:03:30] like a bunch of beliefs about the proper role of state power. A lot of times it comes from personal experience and their identities and things like that, and it just blossoms into like being roughly. Then they … A lot of people will then try to reverse engineer a political spade like a foundation that applies to those things. [00:04:00] Let’s find a foundation that leads to stuff I already believe. I find that pretty common.
Trevor Burrus: It seems that given the way that you got into it, that the political element or at least your idea, is in what you want to say because you said you’re kind of a ranting person. It’s an important part of what we do in a sense that like by judging yourself and your effectiveness on your own standards, and not just if you’re funny but if you’re actually making people think is [00:04:30] something that you want to be doing.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, absolutely.
Aaron Powell: If you line up the policy areas that we do at Cato or the various kinds of things that might fall under broad libertarianism, there’s like the happy optimistic ones like free market economics creates wealth and progress and the future is bright. Then there’s the …
Trevor Burrus: The double-down sandwich from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, they like this.
Jeremy McLellan: Or that new chicken Taco Bell thing …
Trevor Burrus: You’re with me, yeah, pretty much.
Jeremy McLellan: [00:05:00] … which is not that good actually. Then there’s the grindingly depressing side which is the immigration stuff and a lot of the foreign policy. It sounds … A lot of what you talk about is in that grindingly depressing side.
Aaron Powell: Yeah. It’s also in defense of something that already exists. There already does exist like [00:05:30] peaceful interactions between cultures. Immigration already exists. Interactions between people of different countries already exist. Those things exist and are wonderful. Religions coexist all the time for the most part. Then there are the enemies of that. I don’t necessarily see this depressing. I think it can be depressing if you see [00:06:00] what you’re defending as something that exists in the future. There’s this Utopia in the future where if you’re a really hardcore libertarian like the stateless utopia …
Aaron Powell: Seasteading.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, seasteading. You wouldn’t need to seastead if there was Utopia because then you’d just stay on land if you wanted to. That would be true in the future. Even like Marx says it’s like, “Okay, there is thing in the future that we need to defend, and like there’s [00:06:30] a lot of like really hardcore Muslim people who were like, you know, there’s this caliphate in the future you need to defend.” Even like Christians. I am a Christian and there’s ways of talking about the Kingdom of God that are, “Okay, it’s in the future. There’s heaven in the future. We need to like make that happened.” I think that’s very destructive. I think all those types of things are very destructive. I think that you need to be defending something here now. I think the grinding stuff, the violation of civil liberties, those are [00:07:00] violations of wonderful things that are currently happening now. Those are invasions from the state on really beautiful things that are currently happening. I think that celebrating … Defending those things, it doesn’t have to be grinding and depressing.
Aaron Powell: Is that then how you go about … Your Facebook feed which all of our listeners should follow Jeremy on Facebook because his stuff’s hilarious and [00:07:30] fascinating and insightful, but a lot of it is making jokes, finding humor in drone bombings. How do you go about making that stuff funny or finding jokes, ways to make jokes, about these horrific things because often we stay away from that.
There was that after September 11 happened, there was like the “Is comedy dead now?” [00:08:00] The Onion didn’t publish for a little while. It was like inappropriate. How did you …
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, you weren’t allowed to talk about the shoe bomber or anything like that.
Trevor Burrus: Maybe by the time we had the underwear bomber, we were okay on that one.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, but like the shoe bomber was like a few months after. He weren’t allowed to … There was like too soon and no one was allowed to make the joke that finally a Muslim achieved making everybody take their shoes off.
Trevor Burrus: [00:08:30] I knew those Reebok pumps had a fatal flaw in them. That’s one joke I came up with.
Jeremy McLellan: Do comedy for four years and then eventually you get good at making jokes. It’s hard to explain.
Trevor Burrus: Do you think people like George Carlin, he would tend to be the most obvious influence?
Jeremy McLellan: I don’t rant when I do stand-up comedy. It’s just all jokes. He certainly does. I don’t model [00:09:00] myself after any one particular comedian.
Trevor Burrus: In terms of the awareness that George Carlin was trying to make, trying to make a point. He wasn’t just trying to be funny it seems.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, that just comes out of who you are if you are really passionate about this kind of stuff. It’s weird to not have it influence your comedy at all. I have a friend who’s a comedian who’s like really into conspiracy theories and really believes them, [00:09:30] really info wars and stuff like that. His comedy is not even anything close to that and it’s really weird. To me it’s really weird because I’m like, “Dude, why don’t you talk about that kind of stuff?” He doesn’t. It’s just all like nice comedy.
For me it’s all one thing. My comedy, my political viewpoints, my approach to religion and culture and how I make a living. My entire life right now finally I think [00:10:00] feels at least like one thing.
Aaron Powell: You mentioned earlier that you’re a Christian, and that raises interesting things about your career right now which is you’re a white Christian guy who is big on the Islamic festival circuit.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, I have a lot of gigs. Not just Islamic festivals. There’s only one I think festival. It’s MuslimFest in Mississauga. Yeah, there’s a lot of Muslims. The Muslim Student Associations [00:10:30] are like big Muslim organizations that had me perform, yeah.
Aaron Powell: How did that happen?
Jeremy McLellan: I just started going viral in that community and then I got some shows and then word travelled. I had some big names, people, really become fans and recommend me. That just grew organically.
Trevor Burrus: What kind of reaction not so much in terms of the crowd applause but in terms of the fan interaction especially from the Islam [00:11:00] community, the Muslim community, in terms of what you’re offering them beyond laughs. Do you get some good feedback along those lines?
Jeremy McLellan: Sure, yeah.
Trevor Burrus: For example?
Jeremy McLellan: I guess what I’m trying to do besides just make people laugh because they’re just people and they laugh and it’s a good thing. Besides that as far as if you zoom out, there is I think … I don’t know if you’ve heard of the phrase the gray [00:11:30] zone. Basically, ISIS’s main goal is to destroy the gray zone of coexistence between the West and Islam. That is also the goal of a lot of people on the right is to destroy that murky, complicated, the everyday gray zone of coexistence that everyone has to be either Jihadist [00:12:00] or they have to be extremist like the alt-right type very far right people.
The vast majority of people on the planet are not those things. They just coexist. I think that defending that gray zone is extremely important. If I can do that through comedy then I think that’s very worthwhile.
Trevor Burrus: You’re finding ISIS. I don’t even mean that
Jeremy McLellan: Absolutely. I have more … If you go by the [00:12:30] CIA’s stats on how many people are members of ISIS. I have more followers than they do.
Trevor Burrus: That’s pretty good.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah. I think we can win.
Trevor Burrus: Then on the other side because you’ve … I think it’s a very good idea, great concept, the gray zone. Then we have the alt-right and we have of course the big idiot in the room or at least in DC, and so we [00:13:00] have this issue Trump. Everybody looked at me quizzically as they guess, “Who is he talking about?” We have this issue of the alt-right also once none of these interaction whatsoever. What kind of reaction have you received from … Let’s just generally call them alt-right.
Jeremy McLellan: Negative I have to say. Yeah, absolutely which is weird. It’s not weird when you realize what they’re doing. [00:13:30] They believe that Islam and Muslims are a threat to civilization. That Islam is inherently illiberal. Okay, so let’s say that’s true. I don’t think that’s true but let’s say it’s true. Then you have a few options. Number one is like genocide; genocide or banning Muslims and Islam from the United States. Obviously those are illiberal things themselves and they would be declaring war and you’re an idiot if you [00:14:00] want to do that. The other two goals … I don’t think those are viable.
The other two goals is, okay, maybe your goal is to convert all Muslims away from Islam, right? If that’s your goal, then you should consult with missionaries whose job it is to witness and spread Christianity among Muslims and [00:14:30] they hate Trump. They hate the alt-right. They’re like you are making our job incredibly difficult. No Christian missionary is going on the Middle East, putting up cartoons at Mohammed. That is just insane. Okay, they’re not doing that.
Then the other goal is to promote and celebrate interpretations of Islam or actual Muslims who are liberal, who are [00:15:00] committed to liberalism and libertarianism or whatever, or on the left, or Muslim feminists. If you think that Islam is misogynistic, why are you going after and attacking Muslim feminist like it’s a bizarre thing? They’re goal is to destroy that gray zone. Their goal is to destroy the gray zone of coexistence that exists and that I think is worth fighting for.
Yeah, if you google my name, one of the first pages [00:15:30] you get is this page on a Bare Naked Islam about how I’m not funny and how they hate me and stuff like that. It’s not a sad thing because those people aren’t going to be my fans anyway. I didn’t lose anybody by falling out of favorite their Naked Islam. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Aaron Powell: How can we either … You using comedy or just we, in general, those people [00:16:00] who want to maintain and strengthen the gray zone. How can we better …
Jeremy McLellan: We can exist. We hire them. We work with them. That’s just true in general. I think people naturally … I had a post about this yesterday. I think that people’s behaviors are not really bigoted. If they cause something, then bigotry tends to go away. If [00:16:30] you poll Houston, and there was like two million people on Houston, if you poll them maybe 10% will say that Islam are a threat to civilization. That’s 200,000 people. If you then go to an anti-Muslim protest in Houston, it’s like eight people. It’s nice outside on a Saturday so there’s really no reason why people shouldn’t be there. It either means that they don’t really believe it or they’re like the worst National Guard [00:17:00] ever and they’re like, “Okay, well, we’re being invaded but I do have a job off Madison at soccer practice and so I can’t come.” It’s really weird.
I think most people, even the most racist people that I know like the most Islamophobic people that I know, they behave decently to people. They have bad beliefs in their heads but they [00:17:30] don’t actually try to … I’ve never seen someone try to deport an immigrant like basically drag themselves.
Trevor Burrus: [Crosstalk 00:17:37] like drag them out.
Jeremy McLellan: You find an immigrant next door, you go there. That doesn’t happen. Sometimes there are hate crimes and there are domestic terror groups taking it into their own hands. Those people are tiny, tiny part of the population. However, half of the population will vote to have someone else do it. The idea that I have is just like in [00:18:00] economics there is your revealed preference, your stated preference, and your stated preference … I’ not sure if you know this. For listeners, your stated preference is your Netflix Queue. It’s the stuff you say you want to watch and then your Netflix history is all the stuff that you have. That’s your revealed preference.
My stated preference is that I really want to watch documentaries. My revealed preference is that I want to watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Those are basically … that’s by distinction. Government [00:18:30] is the way that we enact our stated preferences. People in general I think live in that gray zone. Even people who have bad thoughts or have negative opinions. They’d go and eat at places that are made by immigrants. They will, if the meet the right one, sometimes fall in love with someone who is an immigrant. All that stuff gets overpowered pretty easily. You don’t really have to encourage [00:19:00] people … sometimes you do to interact with people who are different than them. I think we just do.
Aaron Powell: As you were saying this, something occurred to me I’m curious about. Let me try to talk this out because I’m not sure that the idea is all that clear in my own head. Social media which has been … That’s where people when you’re looking for racism and you’re looking for evidence of the existence of the alt-right, [00:19:30] you point to social media. Social media strikes me as like a medium that is largely performative. We’re not really projecting who we are. We tend to just take on roles and so there’s always that people get depressed because their friends always seem to be having a good time on Instagram and why is my life not like that but their friend’s lives aren’t like that either. It’s just what they’re choosing to share.
I wonder just putting in [00:20:00] the context of this stated versus revealed preferences if the social media performative aspect plays up the stated preferences of racism, of Islamophobia and so on because people … You’re following the roles that people are naturally combative on social media like it’s fun to get into arguments. It’s trolling. How much of this rising [00:20:30] wave of rightwing ugliness isn’t really real? It’s just people playing roles and having fun on social media.
Jeremy McLellan: Sure. It’s not real in a sense. Okay, yeah, those are just cheap beliefs they have. They are performative-type things. The problem is that when they vote, that stuffs spreads. When you vote, that is the same thing. You’re expressing a cheap [00:21:00] belief. You are expressing that and so you don’t have to worry about … I don’t think that with the rise in Islamophobia on the internet, I don’t think that people should be extremely worried about a giant rise in hate crimes, like people actually going out there and doing it themselves.
There is some. I’ve talked to Muslims who work for the FBI who are like, okay, there is a rise, [00:21:30] there has been a rise, but it’s not nearly as big as the media makes it out to be. It’s a combination of hysteria and hoaxes. I don’t think people should be terrified to go outside because people are going to take it in their own hands. They will vote and they will support the government doing it. Even if it’s performative online I still think that people who … Let’s say you’re performing [00:22:00] that you want to build a wall, right. Some of that is because you think you should build a wall, some of that is like because it feels cool to say build a wall and it pisses people off to say build a wall so you do it.
Okay. That means that you’re probably not going to yourself go and build a wall. You’re not going to do anything. You’re not going to donate to build a wall maybe. You will vote to have them build a wall and you’ll be happy if the government does it. I think it’s [00:22:30] real in a sense that it causes people to change their attitudes towards government. I don’t think it’s real in a sense they’re going to go out there and do it themselves.
Trevor Burrus: What advantages does humor have to changing people’s beliefs? I mean in two ways. A, comparatively to persuasive essays and things like this, and then B, is there an advantage that maybe libertarian humor uniquely has or that there’s a unique way the libertarians can make perceptive [00:23:00] observations that maybe a lot of people might agree with but not realize?
Jeremy McLellan: I don’t know. I don’t know if I do libertarian humor. I don’t like putting adjectives before comedy or anything. I think that it’s like saying Christian like. If you define yourself like that, it’s like your music is going to suck. I’m trying to think.
Trevor Burrus: For example, it struck me [00:23:30] regarding the first question was what are the unique way can humor change people’s beliefs compared to others.
Jeremy McLellan: Okay. Yeah, I don’t know if humor … It’s good to plant seeds and to break open people’s misconceptions and make fun of things. If you have a strong message in your comedy, then I feel like people realize [00:24:00] it and their immune system kicks in, and they reject it if they don’t agree with it. I think that your first goal should be fun. It should be funny. Your first goal should be to explore issues and way down the last is to change someone’s mind who is in there. You don’t necessarily have people in the audience who are just like, “I never thought of it that way. Now I believe that.” It’s much more [00:24:30] subtle and behind the scenes in their subconscious.
Trevor Burrus: That’s the second part of the question was about. One reason I’ve enjoyed your stuff so much is because it has upset me to some extent why there weren’t many libertarian comics. It’s not so much … I agree with you saying your libertarian comic is somewhat … means you’re probably going to suck. Because we’re somewhat … we aren’t as biased about political parties for example, [00:25:00] and we’re able to see the absurdities in government, because I think for example that Dr. Strangelove is a wonderful libertarian comedian movie but it’s not trying to be, and now we’ve seen all these mini-shows have come out particularly like Veep and to some extent Parks and Recreation. I think Veep is basically a documentary. It’s the most accurate DC show. Everyone thinks this stuff is funny and you shouldn’t government very seriously, but then of course they do which is odd to me.
Jeremy McLellan: Then of course they do, right, so you can enjoy Veep. [00:25:30] That’s fine. You don’t want people to only find you funny if you agree or if they agree with you. That’s death for art. People should be able to appreciate it. Otherwise it’s just propaganda and it’s not art anymore. Yeah, that’s interesting. I don’t know. I [00:26:00] think that there are people who … I don’t know. You’re right. I remember when I was at the Students for Liberty Conference. Stephanie Slade from Reason tweeted that there’s a guy on stage and he’s actually funny.
Trevor Burrus: Yeah, exactly.
Jeremy McLellan: I started putting actually funny_reason magazine. (Actually funny) and then reason … Next to my [00:26:30] face on my posters and stuff like that. That was my review from Reason. I don’t know. I think that if you set out to “I have these principles and I need to make them funny and get my audience to convert to,” that’s just awful. I think that … I think that if you’re funny, then it just comes out. If you’re passionate about something, it comes out. I’m not [00:27:00] necessarily passionate about an ideology. I’m passionate about free immigration. I’m passionate about ending war. I’m passionate about civil liberties and things like that. Those are the things that animate my comedy.
Trevor Burrus: Do you have any favorite heckler [00:27:30] stories? I figure this … Any good alt-right heckling of the sort?
Jeremy McLellan: No, no, no. Even the alt-right, if you meet someone that’s in the alt-right, they’re nice in person. Everyone’s nice in person. People are just assholes online. Unless they’re performing for someone else, they’re generally nice. I did make … There [00:28:00] was a comedian who was a Trump supporter. He wasn’t very funny at all. He would sing songs on a guitar about a terrorist blowing themselves up and it wasn’t funny. There are Trump supporters in the audience who didn’t think it was funny. This guy was just … He would come in the open mics. He wasn’t getting booked or anything. He would wear a propeller hat like beanie thing on his head.
Trevor Burrus: Like cherry top or something like that?
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, something. It was [00:28:30] weird. He performed with his propeller hat and then I was hosting. I got up after him and I said, “I love the idea that you were getting ready to come here. You’re a Trump supporter and you were trying to decide which hat to wear, and you were like, ‘Well, I don’t want to look ridiculous so I’m going to wear this hat.’” He got really, really upset and not in a normal way. He [00:29:00] posted everyday on Facebook something about me. He got pictures of me off the internet and posted memes of me and said that I was … He had this whole conspiracy like I was the reason why he wasn’t making it in comedy. It was just very bizarre thing.
Trevor Burrus: That’s a lot of power.
Jeremy McLellan: He was like I had nixed. I’ll book Trump supporters. If a Trump supporter is funny, I will book them on a show. That doesn’t matter to me. [00:29:30] He was like … Yeah, he and some other people were just … It became as very, very awkward thing and I didn’t respond. I had all my friends. They were responding. They were like, “Dude, this is making you look ridiculous.” He was like, “I used to be a marine, I have a gun,” and all those stuff. It got really weird. That I think is the worst story that I have. They just fizzled out.
I remember I was like “Let’s get a beer.” I went and got a beer with [00:30:00] him. We talked it out and everything was fine. The next day he was back posting again the exact same stuff. I was like, man, that is really strange. That’s the weird story that I have. For the most part people are nice. Most people are not just really awful in person.
Trevor Burrus: In Trump’s America, that seems like things are … Maybe a change a little change in that. We were, what, three weeks in the Trump’s America hours.
Jeremy McLellan: [00:30:30] We’re in the third week?
Trevor Burrus: Yeah, we recorded it in the third week. Is that … Because you brought up this Trump supporter in this charged atmosphere, do you think it’s different or is it just SSDD?
Jeremy McLellan: What do you mean?
Trevor Burrus: Is it different now or is it just the same issues that we’ve had before. In terms of the inability to talk across the aisle to have this kind of hatred that this guy manifested towards you, whether or not it’s a different kind of situation where …
Jeremy McLellan: I have noticed that [00:31:00] I got a lot of hate mail before the election. Now after the election it’s mostly stopped. I’m like is it because they think they’re winning so they’re like we’re going to layoff? We don’t have to do that anymore? Yeah, I don’t really get that. Or maybe I just succeeded in banning all of them from my page, but I don’t know.
Trevor Burrus: There’s one thing that I think is particularly interesting about Trump’s America from the entertainment perspective [00:31:30] which is whether or not some of the people who are traditionally comics, whether it’s someone like Jimmy Fallon. I just use him as a guy who’s on … is going to spend too much time ranting against Trump and themselves become political comedians in a way that hurts their brand and their funniness.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, I think that is definitely a danger. [00:32:00] The thing is that I don’t have a lot of faith in comedy’s ability to change political outcomes. Some people do. I think most comedians do because obviously if you’re a comedian you think you’re really important. I don’t think that’s true. It may be different now because Saturday Live, and Trump watches it, and so they [00:32:30] may be able to get him to fire Sean Spicer. I really think that’s true and that’s very different.
In terms of people who are just like … All last year, all we heard was John Oliver destroys Donald Trump. If John Stewart and Steven Colbert had been on there, it would’ve been the same thing. This guy just eviscerated Donald Trump. None of them made a difference [00:33:00] because most people who were watching it already agree with them and it’s not that big of a … It just doesn’t have that much of an impact as you think. That’s not the only the reason you do political comedy.
You just don’t do political comedy because you’re trying to make a big difference and change anyone’s mind. You also do it to just spread ideas and [00:33:30] to make people feel less lonely who are oppressed and are going through really hard times, make them … Comfort them. That’s a good purpose of comedy. Yeah, you do … I think you are finding that every late night host … And if they aren’t political, people will jump on them. If Jimmy Fallon has jumped on and messes with his hair or whatever, they’ll get jumped on for not being political, for not speaking truth to power. The irony [00:34:00] is that they all spent the last eight years doing nothing.
Trevor Burrus: Sucking up the power.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, sucking up and playing court jester to American empire. That’s what they spent the last eight years doing. Now they’re like, “Oh, the power of comedy,” and you’re like, all right, welcome.
Aaron Powell: Comedy in the … Political comedy in the age of Trump seems almost difficult.
Jeremy McLellan: It’s easy. It’s so easy that it’s difficult. That’s what I mean.
Aaron Powell: [00:34:30] It seems almost like it’s been trumped.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah.
Aaron Powell: The first line from an article in the Washington Post yesterday, the lead is Rosie O’Donnell, perhaps President Trump’s ultimate nemesis. Like this is … How do you tap that as a joke, right? Is the Trump presidency so funny and nuts as it is that you can’t … There’s not much [00:35:00] you can do besides just …
Jeremy McLellan: You have to have some … You have to have some other perception. You have to have some other philosophy of what’s going on rather than just the liberal narrative of Trump’s ridiculous, he’s doing all these bad things, because you can’t make it more ridiculous. A lot of comedy is teaching people how to look at something very differently so I [00:35:30] don’t know. They said that about Rosie. Rosie O’Donnell was his nemesis. Okay. I don’t know.
Trevor Burrus: That would be an interesting question about something you’re very good at is pointing out inconsistencies. I think that’s a big strategy you use both historically and communicably to point out that they’ve been supplicants to power for so long.
Jeremy McLellan: Right. Even then pointing out hypocrisy is a pretty low-hanging [00:36:00] fruit. It’s not persuasive, number one. If you point out that your opponent is a hypocrite, no one cares in politics. The battle over the Supreme Court judge, everyone has switched sides as far as whether or not you should confirm a Supreme Court judge, right? Pointing that out means nothing. Just everyone knows that politicians are hypocrites and so I don’t think that’s very persuasive.
Trevor Burrus: There is [00:36:30] maybe the wrong … I’m using the wrong term, that’s what’s hypocrisy . There is a lot of … In your comedy there’s a lot of driving comparisons for the purpose of, I would say, elucidating commonality.
Jeremy McLellan: Pointing our hypocrisy is funny and it’s always funny. It’s just not … I don’t think it’s very persuasive in terms of getting people to like, “Oh, now I’m not going to support that person anymore.” No. People support candidates based on whose side they’re on. It’s tribal. It’s not like they [00:37:00] violated this principle of good government. No one cares about that except us.
Trevor Burrus: There’s another flipside to that which is something you’ve written about a few times which I find to be very eloquent actually. It’s often termed Whataboutism in terms of saying, if you say Trump did this executive order, something like that, the first thing is someone comes in and says, “Well, what about what Obama did?” [Crostalk 00:37:29]
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, I was [00:37:30] against it when he did that.
Trevor Burrus: Yeah. What are your thoughts on whataboutism if you want to just like [inaudible 00:37:36] right now but it’s …
Jeremy McLellan: No, no. It’s frustrating because most people are on autopilot and I understand that that’s the nature of it if something that I oppose goes viral because then people who have no idea who I am will then comment. They’ll be like, “Yeah. Well, you didn’t say anything about Obama’s drone strikes.” You’re like you have not known me for the last eight years. I have been saying [00:38:00] stuff about that pretty consistently. Thankfully I have enough fans now who will jump in and say that and be like you’re an idiot. He’s been talking about that for the last eight years, and I’m like, okay, good.
I have enough people who know me who I don’t have to police that stuff. It’s a good … I don’t know. It’s a good thing to say sometimes, but what’s the hope. The hope is now is the time we convince [00:38:30] democrats that Trump shouldn’t have all this power, right. If we can really hammer it home to them that they’re the reason that Trump has all these power, which they are, they are. Obama could have done a lot and it takes years to decrease it. Okay. Then when Trump loses to a democrat, all these democrats who we successfully schooled [00:39:00] will then be like, hey, remember?
No, they’re not going to do that. They’re going to be like, all right, now we have the power. I don’t know. I don’t know how much of an opening there is to convincing people that like maybe America shouldn’t have an army of flying death robots because Trump is. Yeah, a lot of libertarians are like, oh, nice to see all these democrats turning libertarian [00:39:30] now under Trump. It’s like, yeah, they are but they’re going to go back.
Trevor Burrus: Yeah. I think the best we can do is hope that if they’re slightly more sympathetic to our message now and over the next only four years, and in ideal world even fewer than that, that that sympathy will lead them to listen a bit more than they otherwise would have and then maybe some vanishingly small fracture of that.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah, hopefully. Yeah, you can build relationships with them. If [00:40:00] you build relationships with people, then they’re not going to stop being your friend when their side wins. As far as actual friendships and relationships, you have the people now you can … Those will carry over.
Trevor Burrus: On Trump, given how much time you spend in the Muslim community, how bad do you think things will get [00:40:30] or how bad do you think what he’s doing is regarding Muslim immigrants, regarding refugees?
Jeremy McLellan: I think really bad. I think it’s bad and I think it’s going to get really bad. I would expect for … This is the timeline so it’s not like Trump’s going to announce tomorrow to put Muslims in condoms, right. That’s not really the scenario. What people are worried about is Number one, cracking down on immigration. He’s got a lot of leeway to do that. [00:41:00] Tom Cotton is … They’re really going to try and restrict legal immigration to keep you from coming. So it’s that. They are going to … surveillance is going to be ramped up to like an even more ridiculous level. You would see under Session civil liberties go down.
One thing that a lot of people are looking at is [00:41:30] the attempt to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. That is like the big thing that we’re all watching because Number one, it would be the first one to do so, really the first time we do that on strictly ideological grounds. Not because they were engaged in terrorism or supporting terrorism, but because of their beliefs.
Ted Cruz [00:42:00] has bills to do that. Everyone that Trump has surrounded himself with wants to do that. Once they do that, and you maybe like who cares if we designate people in Egypt who are in jail or Hamas as a terrorist organization. What they would do then, and this is Ted Cruz’s plan, is to designate all these Muslim civil rights organizations such as CAIR and ICNA and ISNA, and [00:42:30] all these different organizations in the US who are basically the ACLU for Muslims designate them fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood. This is already like a very common thing. Any time I post a show that I do for CAIR, I would get comments that are like “you support Hamas, you’re a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.” I’m like I’m amazed that the Muslim Brotherhood has a comedy budget that they have from their jail cells.” He [00:43:00] joked there like “Who should we get for this LA conference?”
Because of that now every … Not just me, like every Muslim intellectual in the US has ties to CAIR because they had done work for them, because they donated to them. It’s where it is. It’s like every black activist and black intellectual has some ties to the NAACP. It’s just a natural type thing. [00:43:30] I have conservative Muslim friends who have done stuff for CAIR. Basically then every single Muslim intellectual in the country would have ties to a terrorist organization. This could all happen very, very fast. Everything I’m saying now could take like two weeks to do.
Then everyone … Then there’s this giant chill on donations to CAIR or support for CAIR. Maybe none of [00:44:00] this will happen hopefully. Hopefully none of these will happen. That is … Then you have just straight-up McCarthyism where why are you bringing on this person who has ties to a terrorist organization, and then everyone becomes a terrorist. Then you have mass surveillance and civil liberties being restricted. Civil forfeiture, asset forfeiture of people who have done work [00:44:30] for CAIR or who got paid. It can get really, really crazy really, really fast. I guess the ACLU could step up their efforts.
CAIR is the group that if a Muslim gets accused of something then they can go and get representation. If there’s a civil liberties issue, CAIR is the one that does that. Because of that, okay, then now you have a giant wall dropped in terms [00:45:00] of… Then after that you can do anything.
Trevor Burrus: During that whole darkest timeline future which unfortunately I think is …
Jeremy McLellan: I find that incredibly plausible.
Trevor Burrus: … fairly likely, what will you be doing and what should comics be doing if they care about?
Jeremy McLellan: They should be … I’ll be doing what I am still doing. I’m not terribly worried about myself. Its’ just whatever happens, [00:45:30] happens. Comedians should be supporting CAIR and should be supporting these groups that are under attack. Even if you don’t agree with them, even if you don’t … Like those are people in the frontline of civil liberties of Muslims in the US. If you … I think, yeah, it can happen pretty fast.
Aaron Powell: What do you say to the people who hear what you’re describing as a possible timeline and think, “Well, that’s what’s [00:46:00] needed. We need to crack down on this because Muslim immigration is a threat.” Then they’ll often say, “Look at Europe with its populations that have not integrated and the violence we see there.” That concern like there’s a level like a lot of it is bigotry, but then there’s a lot of just fear that maybe rational or irrational but it’s genuine. What do you say [00:46:30] to those Americans who think we do need to … We need to be careful here.
Jeremy McLellan: Okay. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s just so far separated from my own experience with the Muslim community that the only thing that I can do is just show them that gray zone and be like, “Look, this is what’s happening. There are crazy people on the other side but like this is what’s happening. And if you attack, if you attack that gray zone [00:47:00] then, and this is ISIS goal, is to get the west to declare war on Islam and to attack that gray zone which they hope will drive more Muslims to ISIS, to their caliphate or whatever. Don’t do what they want you to do.
In terms of Europe, I don’t have … I [00:47:30] just back from a tour of UK but I wasn’t in Germany or places that are more close to that. It’s a hard situation and I don’t envy them. There are reasons why America is so good at assimilating immigrants even though there’s a wave of immigration everyone’s like, “No, they’re not going to assimilate.” It’s like or integrate. They’re not like assimilate, but integrate. [00:48:00] Part of it is like barriers to entry into the economy. A lot of people who immigrate to Europe can’t find jobs and they’re legally not allowed to have a job. Then what do you do? You end up in the ghetto and doing stuff off the books. Those places are pretty ripe for radicalization just like refugee camps are right for radicalization.
Trevor Burrus: For [00:48:30] listeners who want to find your stuff and follow you, where can they find you and then what can they expect to see when they follow you on Facebook or otherwise.
Jeremy McLellan: Yeah. It’s just Jeremy McLellan comedy of Facebook and then Jeremy McLellan on Twitter. It’s with one C. Yeah, I just talk about politics and talk about religion and culture and all that stuff.
Trevor Burrus: Thanks for listening. This episode of Free Thoughts was produced by Tess Terrible [00:49:00] and Evan Banks. To learn more, visit us at www.libertariansim.org.