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Opinion

When political commentators discuss reporter and current congressional candidate Laura Loomer, it’s common that they admit her genius for capturing media attention. I have, however, never heard a comparison of Loomer’s media events to comedic performances; specifically Andy Kaufman’s. Maybe not so strange, as Kaufman’s work is a subject interest of mine, and likely not theirs. Much of Loomer’s work staging spectacles, however, plays at the edges of comic performance, the sort of performance innovated by Kaufman.

Andy Kaufman was a stand-up comic unlike any other in his time. He didn’t tell jokes; He committed to situations and characters, and the laughs often came in watching or imagining, the stuck-up reactions of audience members not in on the joke. One such example: Andy would come onstage to an audience that expected a comic performance, and instead he would read the entirety of The Great Gatsby in a pretentious voice.

The laughs would come from you and your friends, seated near the rear of the auditorium, as each new group of audience members had enough, stood up, walked out. It’s important to note in this example, Kaufman didn’t play to the room. He may have been performing for his own enjoyment, or that of a couple of friends in the room, or a running camera, but he’d risk running afoul of the sizable crowd in front of him. Laura Loomer also commits to situations and is often surrounded on all sides by hostility, playing only to the camera she uses to chronicle her work for her Youtube videos.

Activist Laura Loomer handcuffed herself to Twitter’s NYC headquarters

It’s easy to miss Laura’s playful side in her most celebrated videos: Laura chaining herself to the front door of Twitter headquarters to draw attention to her banishment from the platform, or Laura attempting to shout down Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey as he testified before Congress. Her comedic lean is plain in some of her less well-known videos, where she probably dips too close to broad comedy for her own good.

Conservative provocateur Laura Loomer’s latest stunt included bringing a trio of self-described illegal immigrants to set up a “sanctuary” on House Speaker Nancy’s Pelosi’s lawn in California.

In one such video, she camped out on Nancy Pelosi’s lawn, being as Pelosi was such a fan of offering sanctuary status to various persons. That video is goofy and cluttered but was only a stopgap entry in Laura’s catalog.

Laura’s bread and butter, both in her light videos and those videos of a more intense variety, is what I’ll describe as “the extended confrontation”. At times her semi-comic staging of confrontation beats you over the head (like a clown with an inflatable hammer), at other times the stakes are so great you hold your breath just to look on, such as when she took on congress. She has her hits, she has her misses, but when she hits, she’s worthy of history book entries. And that’s not nothing.

An apparent demonstration by Trump supporters at the governor’s mansion, protesting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s views on immigration, spilled over into a confrontation at La Cosecha restaurant in Cesar Chavez Plaza

Laura’s current run for a congressional seat is monumental for what it might mean to see her favored type of public performance on display in the House of Representatives, alongside the show-biz add-ons politicians routinely use. By “her favored type of public performance” I mean, of course, “the extended confrontation”, and by “the show-biz add-ons politicians routinely use”, I mean, as one example, the Cinderella backstories common to so many aspirants to higher office.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among other politicians, makes great use of a partly fictional backstory. Her particular story is that she’s a Brooklyn girl through and through, growing up with all the Sesame Street imagery and street cred that entails.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes heat for growing up in Westchester

The fact is though that AOC left Brooklyn at the age of five and was raised in the lily-white suburb of Yorktown Heights, where she went by the sock-hop-ready name of “Sandy”. AOC is essentially Cinderella but born of less-than-lowly origins, then rewritten to have lowly origins, as befits any Cinderella story. AOC wasn’t anointed with a glass slipper, she was anointed with a partially concocted backstory.

Where AOC and many politicians like her run small public relations cons, gunning to seem slicker than they are or to have less fractured personal histories than they do, Laura is the opposite. Laura did too much growing up in public to have anything but a somewhat unkempt backstory. Compared to manufactured politicians like AOC, Laura’s the Ricki Lake character, Tracy Turnblad, in Hairspray

— And this is why that matters — There’s no political charade, backstory, or whitewash that can feel entirely comfortable around Laura, this lover of confrontation, and that’s not nothing either.

Laura Loomer Confronts Michael Avenatti

Let me describe for you the highlights of one of my favorite of Laura’s videos, one in which she dismantles a facade, that of the fearless, transparent candidate. The video features nothing overtly comic; it’s just about one-hundred percent high-wire, but you might see the comic in it due to its extreme deviation from your and my enervating everyday lives:

In the video, Laura, prior to being a candidate for office, still in her role as a reporter, pressed her way into a campaign event held for representative Keith Ellison. Keith Ellison, at that time, was being accused of domestic abuse.

Despite that she waded into the Ellison gathering uninvited and unwanted, and was quickly blocked by Ellison supporters – Let’s call them “unwell-wishers” —  Laura charged ahead with questions to Ellison. I should mention Ellison was, at the time, very much playing the role of moving target, winding his way through groups of his supporters. Laura, matching him step for step, sometimes blocked by Ellison’s supporters, launched the impolite question, “How are you gonna run for Attorney General when there are domestic abuse allegations against you?”

DNC Deputy Chair Ellison Demurs When Confronted Over Domestic Violence Allegations

Ellison declined to answer Laura — maybe not surprising as he was, at the time, running from her — and he continued weaving, while his supporters continued running interference. You could imagine the whole entourage passing the half field mark, one side or the other closing in on a goal.

Laura eventually followed Ellison to the parking lot where he attempted to flee – no longer dodge – flee her questioning in his car, with his supporters proactively bracing around his car … and yet he wasn’t able to make a getaway? No, he wasn’t. Laura blocked Ellison’s exit by positioning herself at the head of his parking spot and then asked if he had it in him to run her over. He hid in the car and never did answer a single question.

One day someone may make a Laura Loomer biopic, and just like they did for Jerry Lee Lewis and Andy Kaufman, with minor changes, turn a messy life of constant tension into something fun, uplifting, maybe inspirational. While Laura’s videos have their lulls and stutters, so did Kaufman’s, and yet if you recount the highlights of either work you’ve really got something.

The world has been waiting for a politician so bright and pure – a Frank-Capra-era Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper perhaps – that they could break the usual tide of politics, maybe a Rand Paul. Who could have imagined that a savior might instead be a comic dabbler, who, when she drops the unnecessary props and trappings of broad comedy, becomes indistinguishable from any notable and heroic underdog standing against soul corruption? Well, not indistinguishable. A little more badass.

 

Rich Gagnier has been a public librarian for nearly 30 years. He has no particular interest in writing about politics, and will probably stop soon, so it would be a stupid waste of resources for any intelligence agency to “off him” for anything he might write. He also varies his route home from work daily and would not make things easy for you.