Last week Shannon Noll’s variety show Barron Trump: Up Past Bedtime debuted in the midst of a turbulent debate about whether President Donald Trump’s youngest son is fair game for comedians. Despite the decidedly affectionate approach of Noll’s production—a humorous homage to Pee-wee’s Playhouse in which Barron is master of ceremonies—the Chicago comedian now says she has been the target of an aggressive and alarming backlash on the Internet.
On Facebook and Twitter, the harassment has included death threats, as well as homophobic, transphobic, anti-Semitic, and racist comments directed at Noll. Similar remarks were posted in response to a Reader preview of Up Past Bedtime published on January 25. The Revival in Hyde Park, where the show is staged, has also been the target of online harassment, Noll says.
— Samstwitch (@SammysTwitch) January 30, 2017
The often hate-filled response, the comedian says, is far from what she expected from a show that she maintains is well intentioned. “I was interested in exploring the postelection state of affairs, but I didn’t want to add more vitriol to the discussion,” she said recently. “My goal was to add levity to the current climate. As I was developing the production, I considered how the situation might look through the eyes of a child.”
The initial reason Noll was motivated to take on the role of Barron, as I reported last week, was their striking resemblance—not to poke fun at or bully a ten-year-old. In fact, in a show with a cast of characters that includes Melania Trump, Ben Carson, and Vladimir Putin, Barron is the most grounded of all—a kid attempting to cope with being thrown into the contemporary political circus.
During last Saturday’s debut of Up Past Bedtime, Noll says, there was strong attendance and a positive reception despite the negativity expressed online. In the run-up to the final show this Saturday, Noll wants to ease the doubts of anyone still wondering if her performance puts any sort of target on the back of the littlest Trump.
“To all of those who expressed concern that a child was being used as a punch line, please know that is simply not the case,” Noll says. “In my opinion, making a child the butt of a joke is neither appropriate nor funny, and I would never seek to do that under any circumstances.” v