JTA - It’s not on YouTube, it’s close to an hour long, and no, it doesn’t feature Sarah Silverman.
But the folks behind “The Great Schlep,” the 2008 Jewish-themed viral video, hope a one-act musical will convince millennials in swing states to volunteer and vote against Donald Trump.
The musical, called “Chump,” is a departure in style and substance from “The Great Schlep.” “Schlep” was a four-minute video that had Silverman, the Jewish comedian, urging young Jews to go to Florida and convince their grandparents to vote Obama. In 2012, the group produced “Wake the F–k Up,” a pro-Obama video starring Samuel L. Jackson.
This year, the creators of “Schlep” felt that another celebrity making the case against Trump wouldn’t be enough. Instead, “Chump” hopes to satirize a candidate who has already shattered the boundaries of traditional campaigning.
Chump, the title character, is meant to be an even brasher version of the Donald. One of the three protagonists is his son’s Jewish fiancee, named Estelle. The play aims to be the 2016 version of “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 satire of Adolf Hitler — with elements of the musical “Hamilton” and the Scroll of Esther mixed in.
“[‘The Great Dictator’] helped introduce American audiences to these characters, these fascist leaders in Europe, in a way the news couldn’t,” said Mik Moore, a co-founder of Schlep Labs, the group that created “Chump.” “It is a mistake that we make [thinking] that the news is enough, that the facts are enough, and that we don’t need to tell stories, that we don’t need to connect emotionally with people.”
(Moore is also a board member of the Jewish Student Press Service, my former employer.)
Opposite Chump, the show’s three protagonists are members of three groups real-life Trump or his supporters have criticized: Jews (Estelle, Chump’s daughter-in-law to be, is Jewish), Muslims (Chump’s secret service agent Malik is black and Muslim) and Hispanics (Rosie, his housekeeper, is Hispanic). All three struggle with their relationships to Chump as his campaign gets more and more extreme.
The musical also doesn’t shy away from lampooning Trump’s fans. Called “Chumpanzees” in the show, they admire and encourage Chump’s worst traits. In one song, called “Chump Time,” his supporters glorify violence, anger and xenophobia.
“Oh, it’s the right time/for angry white guys,” goes one lyric. “God forbid I see an immigrant./If you’ve got a feeling of inferiority/Come to a rally/punch a minority.”
You can find that song on YouTube, but you won’t find much else from the show. That’s because Moore says he’s had an unusually tough time finding people to fund it. The show was originally conceived as a web series, but donors wouldn’t bite.
So now Schlep Labs plans to send the script, sheet music and instrumental recordings of the songs to regional theaters and campus theater groups in swing states. Rather than charging for the show, Schlep Labs is requiring that the theaters set up voter registration tables and campaign volunteer sign-up sheets at the performances.
“This is the most difficult fundraising environment I’ve ever encountered despite the fact that I have never seen people more anxious about the prospect of a candidate winning,” Moore said. “While there are people who are supporting Clinton who are not excited about Clinton, I don’t know anyone who isn’t fearful of a Trump presidency.”
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