Donald J. Trump, easily the worst President the United States has ever had.
Watching from afar, here in Australia, I was in disbelief throughout his presidency. From his crazy late night twitter rampages to the political choices he made, I was always shocked yet somewhat not surprised.
What was even more inconceivable were the press conferences that the White House Press Secretaries would run to try and justify Trump’s actions. Trump had no less than four people burn through the role of Press Secretary and none were more entertaining yet shockingly inadequate than Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders became an internet sensation after the lack of answers she gave to the press gallery.
Leaning into this absolute dumpster fire of American politics, Melissa McGlensey, an American Ex-pat herself, has created her daring debut solo show with The Briefing. The show is set as a press briefing with McGlensey stepping into a paradoxical version of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and has turned the extreme right-wing agenda up to 11.
Prior to entering the Music Room at Trades Hall, Sanders’ assistant Gumbo played by Felix MacFarlane, handed out small pieces of paper. They were designed as a blank ‘Trump Tweet’, and we were instructed to write down some classic Trump style tweets that would be used during the show. Upon entering the room, there was a lone lectern centre stage and a screen displaying the Presidential Seal. After a brief introduction by Gumbo, Sanders enters and welcomes the audience as ‘members of the press’ to her Australian press tour.
Having watched the US political circus from afar for such a long time, I was excited to see a show that brings these controversial topics to the forefront. McGlensey tackles the extreme right-wing agenda perfectly. Whilst satirical in nature, it is also confronting as hell that there are people in America, and around the world, that believe in these ideals with their whole heart.
There were moments in the show that were so controversial, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or sit there in shock. However, the more I laughed at how crazy these topics were, the more I enjoyed it. From gun control, abortion, and religious extremism, and even an idea that the Great Barrier Reef is too colourful and would be better if it were ‘whiter‘, there was no topic that McGlensey was afraid to tackle.
The show is more than just McGlensey standing behind a lectern as Sanderson and preaching the right-wing agenda, there is also lots of audience participation. From questions pointed towards the ‘press gallery’, to a quick draw sketch that depicts the ideal image of ‘leftist commies’, there was a lot to be involved in. And at the end of the briefing, Sanders opens to questions from the press. The questions were met with quick fire, improvised responses that highlighted McGlensey’s improv skills and knowledge of the topics covered throughout the show.
The Briefing is more than just a comedy show, it is a lesson of right-wing extremism and the American political landscape. The scariest thing about the topics covered is that most of them actually happened, are happening now and that some Americans strongly believe in these ideals.
While The Briefing does show some terrible truths, it doesn’t do so without some injected clever humour. From Sanders admitting that she loves eggs, to Gumbo throwing eggs and putting people on watch lists, the energy in the room was dynamic. It wasn’t long before McGlensey had her audience captivated, and not because the press conference had a ’few more hours’ to go, with McGlensey joking that the presser is meant to go for 4 hours, but because McGlensey is extraordinary.
After the show, looking back on what just happened, it was clear to me that I was both laughing at how ridiculously funny it was, but also laughing in fear. This feeling highlights how great Melissa McGlensey is as a political comedian. McGlensey is smart, funny, bold and fearless in the creation and execution of the character, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. There is no topic too controversial for McGlensey. This bravery in political satire is what makes The Briefing such a fantastic and ingenious production.
The Briefing is a show I never thought I would see, yet I am extremely thankful that I took a chance on it. I would even go as far as to saying that The Briefing should be required viewing in hope that it will educate the population about how dangerous the extreme right-wing agenda is to society. I hope that the production returns during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival because I would love to see this show again and actually be prepared to ask questions during the presser next time!
The Briefing has one show left this evening at Festival Hub: Trades Hall in the Music Room at 8.30pm. Tickets are available from the Melbourne Fringe website and there is even an option to pay ‘A Little Extra’ with more of the fee going towards the artist. So, if you have nothing to do tonight and want to be thoroughly entertained, go and see this show!
Photography by Tony Lazzeroni.