“Don’t talk about the Donald!”
August 15th, 2018 – Ben Gleib met a Trump supporter after his standup show in Illinois. Unlike other audience members, this man didn’t want to take a photo; he wanted to give the comedian a warning (or what could easily be called a threat or a prediction).
“You shouldn’t talk about the president like that. I loved your act until then. I’m just telling you…around here…you talk like that, you’re gonna get a bullet in the back of the head.”
Earlier in the night, another person had taken issue with a fairly tame joke Gleib made about our incredibly thick-skinned president. The joke began with a dig about women making duck-lips, and then morphed into the idea we’re attracted to ducks and that’s why we elected Trump: he’s orange, he’s got a tuft of duck hair, and his name is actually Donald.
Gleib posted a video of the show where a woman, off-screen, can be heard yelling “MAGA, MAGA” before giving a warning of her own saying:
“Don’t talk about the Donald!”
Gleib, seemingly comfortable with hecklers, fired back with some comparisons for the POTUS-defending fan.
“Oh, I thought this was America. So weird,” he responded. “Oh my God. Don’t talk about…that’s exactly what they’d say in Russia. ‘Don’t talk about Vladimir Putin that way!’ He’s got you programmed, ma’am, holy shit.”
Oddly enough, Gleib took a page of Trump’s playbook. On the campaign trail, candidate Donald loved to extend the height of the wall that Mexico was supposedly going to pay for whenever he got pushback from our neighbors from the south. “The wall just got 10 feet taller,” he’d exclaim. Unlike Trump, Gleib was able to carry out his exaggeration.
“I only planned on doing that one joke about Trump, but since she decided to try to squelch my free speech I decided maybe I should continue,” he said.
The comedian went on to land a few more blows about Trump’s border wall plan and communication styles.
“If you’re supporting Donald Trump still, it’s an inexplicable thing to me, but if you’re gonna do it you better at least sit down when you’re at a comedy show and listen to thoughts other than your own. Because if you aren’t aware, comedy’s not just about being light and funny and making people laugh. It’s also about speaking truth to power,” Gleib said in the video he filmed after the incident.
After his act, Gleib didn’t reflect on the things comedians normally consider post-show. He didn’t weigh which jokes worked and which ones need some fine tuning. Instead, he thought about how his role as a comedian intersects with threats made in defense of a president. The man who told Gleib he’d get a bullet in the back of his head also told him he knows a lot of people who carry and a lot of people walking around with bullets inside their bodies.
“I was shaken by it. Absolutely,” Gleib said. “And I felt threatened by it. Absolutely. But it’s not going to stop me because people have fought and died for this country, so if I have to tell jokes that are hard to tell and deal with consequences that are scary, then so be that. I’m not gonna back down from people who try to intimidate me like Donald Trump tries to intimidate everybody who speaks against him. You tell us to shut up, we’re gonna speak louder. The whole point of comedy, the history of comedy, has been to speak out against social injustice.”
A comedian told a joke about Trump & a Trump supporter came up to him after and said that he shouldn’t talk about Trump like that if he did, that he will get a bullet in the head.
— Khary Penebaker (@kharyp) August 11, 2018