Public Comment as Performance

Government meetings can become a key performance venue with some clever planning. The bar is already set so low that one can easily say their peace and do it with panache! Get inspired by these fun examples…

Monopoly Man poses behind an Equifax executive at a government meeting

There are situations where open public comment, response, or testimony is invited; shareholder meetings, city council, Q&As, and so on. These public comment periods usually include a mix of sincerity, outrage, and almost always a dose of absurdity – quite literally. Everyone must be heard so… everyone is heard. Including people who claim vaccines have made them magnetic.

It’s an odd moment in the bureaucracy where just about anything goes – as long as it’s within the designated time limit.

There is opportunity here!

Below are some fun examples to inspire future actions. Remember – repeating these won’t work for you! Great artistic activism is specific to a context; an issue, in a community, in a cultural moment. But you can take the principles and come up with new ideas applying to different issues, different communities, and the current cultural moment. Be sure to send us the results!

Government Meetings

Monopoly Man at Equifax Hearing

During a congressional hearing, artistic activist Ian Madrigal dressed as ‘Monopoly’ mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags and “photobombed” Equifax CEO Richard Smith in cameras’ shots.

Swamp Thing at Trump Appointee Confirmation Hearing

A pair of Greenpeace activists brought attention to President Trump’s “swampy” nominee to replace Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary.

Anti-Critical Race Theory Satire at School Board Meeting

In 2021 right wing media fostered a paranoia around teaching “Critical Race Theory” in schools. At a Yorktown Heights school board meeting, two comedians in American flag shirts made satirical arguments for the conservative side.

Man removes clothes at School Board meeting

In a school board meeting about the requirement to wear masks in schools during the pandemic, many argued that they didn’t like being “told what to do” by the government. This man follow the same logic to other ends about stop signs, handicap parking spaces, and wearing clothes at the meeting itself.

Chad and JT at Southern California City Council Meetings

Brilliant writing and acting. The city of LA was trying to outlaw house parties in the Hollywood Hills so Chad and JT stepped in to thwart a potential disaster. Check out their YouTube channel for more. “Whattup Council…”

Comedian Nato Green at SF Board of Supervisors

On Tuesday, November 5, 2013, San Francisco comedian Nato Green gave public comment during a hearing at the Board of Supervisors. The Board was hearing an appeal on a proposed condo development in the Mission District, and there were concerns that the project would hurt the beloved Marsh Theatre next door.

SF Comedians testify about the Ellis Act

Nato Green returns with comedians Kate Willet, Matt Lieb, Nicole Calasich, Juan Medina and Sean Keane to argue for increased relocation payments for San Francisco residents to mitigate the impact of evictions by landords under California’s Ellis Act.

Comic calls Senator Feinstein “on behalf of her client”

Comic Francesca Fiorentini posted this video of her calling her Senator on instagram in August of 2020. She calls on behalf of “a very important client, the mother-fucking planet” about making a deal and scheduling a meeting.

Sincere man appeals to Lincoln City Council

Andrew Christensen deadpans a plea to the Lincoln, Nebraska city council about the use of the term “Boneless Chicken Wings.”

Satanist opens city council meeting

Many city councils invite clergy to begin their meetings. Because the U.S. Constitution prohibits any government sponsored religion, they must give equal opportunity to all religions. Walking through the door that the Pensacola City Council opened by inviting religious leaders in the past, David Suhor from the Satanic Temple was allowed to give an invocation. And some people lost their minds…

Bonus: The Local News

Covering “both sides”

While not obligated to give time to everyone like a city council meeting, local news is often looking to fill time and appear balanced by covering opposing views. This Orlando activist became “the other side” and executes it pretty brilliantly.

Environmental Yo-Yo Master

At the beginning of his career, comic actor Mark Proksch realized that local morning shows would not be able to resist a “Yo-Yo Master” who was also “Going Green”. He got on multiple morning segments across the mid-west before they figured out it was a joke. (From this, I think he ended up getting a role on The Office.)

Bonus: Just show up

Trump is Boring

Past Center for Artistic Activism grantees, the Good Liars, are incredible shape shifters. In costume, they attended early Trump rallies and cheered him on. But as his speeches rambled on, they got bored.

See you at the next city council meeting!