Former Chicagoan and Second City alum Katie Rich was suspended from her writing position on Saturday Night Live after she posted a tweet on January 20 in which she joked that Barron Trump, the ten-year-old son of President Donald Trump, “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” Rich apologized on Twitter, but the the initial tweet and SNL‘s disciplinary action has sparked debates about the apparent double standard of who gets reprimanded for posts on social media, censorship of comedians (and the pressure to self-censor), and whether a child, even if he happens to be the son of the president of the United States, is fair game for humorists.
I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet. I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I’m so sorry.
— Katie Rich (@katiemaryrich) January 23, 2017
Chicago comedian Shannon Noll is testing similar waters with Barron Trump: Up Past Bedtime, which coincidentally premieres Saturday at the Revival in the wake of the controversy around Rich’s tweet. Noll says her approach is decidedly lighthearted: an exploration of the current political moment through the eyes of a child enmeshed in it.
“When I set out to do this show, I did it to use [Barron] as a vehicle to comment on this administration,” Noll says. She was initially inspired to take on the title role due to her resemblance to the youngest Trump, who stepped into the spotlight when he appeared to struggle to stay awake during his father’s presidential victory speech, which occurred at around 3 AM.
Current mood: #barrontrump pic.twitter.com/7tXe7XHz2Q
— Edward ZO (@EdwardZo) November 9, 2016
Up Past Bedtime begins as Melania Trump tucks Barron in for the night. He then secretly stays awake to explore a fantastical world, a la Pee-wee’s Playhouse, populated by the likes of Vladimir Putin and Ben Carson. Rounding out the cast are Erin Diamond, Sonal Aggarwal, Arish Singh, Aadam Keeley, Asia Martin, Max Thomas, Gary Pascal, Meghana Indurti, and Wanjiku Kairu.
Noll acknowledges that the landscape for jokes is shifting. “Katie Rich getting suspended is troubling to me as a comedian,” she says. “Twitter, to me, seems like a forum where comics put out jokes that wouldn’t work on stage, which makes it a really strange platform because people’s subconscious is now on a public platform.”
She says she’s received no criticism regarding her forthcoming performance, and she hopes it stays that way after the show opens. “The feeling that I want people to leave with is one of hope and positivity,” Noll says. “We’re bringing some light to the time that we’re in.”
Barron Trump: Up Past Bedtime, Sat 1/28 9:30 PM and Sat 2/4 8 PM, The Revival, 1160 E. 55th, 866-811-4111, the-revival.com, $5.