At the York Theatre until January 30, 2016 (2PM and 8PM)
Posted January 29, 2016
On the day Charlie Demers was born – July 1, 1980 – his mother made two predictions: Charlie would be a comedian (because he peed on his doctor that day) and, secondly, he would become Prime Minister of Canada. Charlie made good on the first one: he’s a first-rate comic of the stand-up variety and a frequent guest on CBC’s The Debaters. While he isn’t – yet – Prime Minister, I’d give him my vote in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d knock on doors for Charlie. Who knew I’d have so much in common with the son of a francophone Canadian father and an anglophone Canadian mother? We are both, it appears, bewildered and furious at the way the world is going to hell in a hand basket.
According to Demers and Oxfam’s figures (“and that’s never going to be good”, quips Charlie), sixty-two individuals in the world control as much wealth as half the world’s population. (And for over two million dollars, you can buy a teardown on the east side of Vancouver.)
Something’s got to give.
Demers himself gives and gives and gives in Leftovers, a show that is, “longer and way less hopeful than a TED talk”, he warns us at the outset. And while it’s not true that the show is sponsored by “Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Conrad Black and lululemon”, they provide much of the fuel for his fire.
In spite of all the laughs, my gut was clenched out of fear that Charlie Demers would simply implode on stage so full is he of revolutionary zeal. His socialism started early; by seventeen Demers was giving lectures and writing articles for Marxist newspapers under a pseudonym. “What kid of seventeen has a pseudonym?” (What kid these days even knows what a pseudonym is?)
Demers takes us through the publication of Milton and Rose Friedman’s “Free to Choose” and the rise of free market neoliberalism whose advocates include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who famously said, spouting Friedman, “the society that puts equality before freedom winds up with neither but the society that puts freedom before equality, we will end up with a great measure of both. Boy”, he goes on to say, “ if I would have come up with that one myself, I maybe wouldn’t have had to get into body building.” Duh.
Demers circles back and back again to the election night photo of Justin Trudeau: his mother Margaret holds his face in her hands and is about to plant a kiss on her darling boy: the white, privileged son of white, privileged parents.
Charlie, out of frame of that photo, weeps for the NDP loss. But he – like many of us – is holding his breath. Trudeau’s cabinet is made up of 50% women. But he hasn’t said ‘no’ to Enbridge and his finance minister Bill Morneau, CEO of Morneau Shepell, the largest Canadian human resources services organization in North America, is married to the heiress to McCain Foods. In short, rich, white dudes.
Demers, on the other hand, would come to the Prime Minister’s job with no money but lots of passion. He would, he says, make education free, tax the wealthy, close down the tar sands, honor the First Nations treaties, and much more. He would fund research into alternate energy (maybe a fuel cell could be built on “white guilt”). He doesn’t know but it would be “glorious” – for twenty-four hours.
Written by Charlie Demers and Marcus Youssef (who also directs) and produced by Neworld Theatre, The Cultch and the PuSh Festival, Leftovers is a highly provocative, zealously political show that comes with a lobby warning: This show contains coarse language, Marxism and non-toxic haze.
Let’s hear it! Charlie for Prime Minister!