By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Zephyr Teachout, the law professor who challenged Governor Andrew Cuomo in the last gubernatorial election, lent a helping hand to a new show at the People’s Improv Theater called “Drunken Civics,” borne out of the 2016 election results and combining comedy and learning about local government. Teachout appeared in the show on Monday evening at the theater on East 24th Street to discuss the Independent Democratic Conference (the Senate breakaway Democrats who are aligned with Republicans).
“I guess how this works is that I’ll say things and they make fun of me, which is kind of what it was like running for governor,” Teachout told the crowd, who chuckled in response.
The show was separated into acts where the speaker went through discussion points on the main topic and the group of improvisers then picked up on points to create a handful of scenes. Teachout used her time to explain that due to the IDC, despite a small Democratic majority in the Senate, progressive legislation is frequently blocked in the state.
She also expressed frustration in one of her segments about the power wielded by this small group, who she feels has been blocking a Democratic agenda in endeavors such as eliminating the LLC loophole and enacting voting reforms.
A resulting sketch played off of the upcoming Halloween holiday, with one improviser acting as a trick-or-treater who said, “I will accept candy… or money if you’re an LLC.”
After Teachout said IDC members were just Republicans in disguise, another would-be trick-or-treater played along, saying, “I’m a Republican but I’m dressed as a Democrat.”
Later, Teachout said that she enjoyed the experience and although she didn’t technically participate in the improv section of the show, she said she can see similarities between that and her work as a lawyer.
“I feel like we’re all improvising now,” she told Town & Village, referring to the current political climate. “I’m trained to always say what’s wrong with a situation and like with improv, you build on what you already have. That’s what’s so great about improv.”
The show itself was created by actors and activists Rich Hollman and Jeanine T. Abraham through their group, The Rights Factory, a collection of artists who want to get involved politically. The performance on the IDC was the group’s third show, and previous performances covered healthcare reform and the fourth amendment.
“We created this group The Rights Factory as a bunch of artists who came together for catharsis and then figured if we added alcohol and improv we could make it a thing,” Abraham said at the beginning of the most recent performance.
Hollman, who works as an actor and performs in the Drunken Civics shows, used to teach classes at the theater and has been performing there for the last eight years, so having the show there seemed like a natural fit.
“I was just trying to get together with people and not just curse on Facebook all the time,” he said of creating the group. “And on each of (the three) stages (at the PIT), there are three or four shows per night, so they’re always looking for shows. Back in November when the group started, it was just my friends but in terms of creating a show, this was the most convenient.”
The group also partnered with a handful of advocacy organizations, including Hindsight 2020, CTZNWELL, Empire State Indivisible, Northwest Bronx Indivisible, Move On/Indivisible Upper West Side, NO IDC NY and TrueBlue NY to offer a happy hour before the show and provide information about local elections.