No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America

By Angelique Haugerud | Go to book overview

5
Humor’s Workshop, Humor’s Witnesses

THE BILLIONAIRES’ MANHATTAN ASSEMBLIES, said Merchant F. Arms (Varon), were “kind of a trip; I mean, they’re almost like a performance in themselves.”1 At the height of the 2004 presidential campaign, weekly planning meetings I attended were imbued with the same kind of theatrics as their public performances. “Whose media?” called out Meg A. Bucks. “Our media!” roared the Billionaires at the start of a summer 2004 Manhattan chapter meeting. “Whose Constitution?” “Our Constitution!” Soon a round of selfintroductions: “Ivy League Legacy, chair of the Speakers’ Bureau, and I sing with The Follies.” “Alan Greenspend, Minister of Special Operations and schmoozer.” “Special Operations” is the Billionaires’ “prank and information-gathering” wing, he adds. “Phil T. Rich, also a schmoozer.” “Dr. DeBooks, Follies.” Announcing their real names was optional, as in “Riggin de Polls (Mark), infomercial.” “Betty Berkowitz, no real name yet” [laughter]. “Ivan Aston Martin, messaging.” “I am Ken. I’m from Brooklyn, and I think that’s part of America” [laughter]. His joke indirectly referenced Republican talk of the “real America.” When I introduced myself near the start of one Manhattan chapter meeting—giving my Billionaire name, real name, academic affiliation, and researcher role—someone called out, “Whose academia?” and attendees answered, “Our academia!”

Fast-paced and exuberant, the 2004 meetings often drew more than fifty Billionaires at a time, as well as print and broadcast journalists and videographers. Gatherings were announced in advance on the Billionaires’ website and were open to anyone. Most were held in an airy Lower East Side loft belong-

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No Billionaire Left Behind: Satirical Activism in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vii
  • Introduction - The Comedy of Wealth? 1
  • 1- Irony, Humor, Spectacle 23
  • 2 - "Times Are Good!" a New Gilded Age 55
  • 3- Pre-Billionaires - Experiments in Satirical Activism, 1990s 81
  • 4- Branded - Billionaires for Bush (and More) 109
  • 5 - Humor’s Workshop, Humor’s Witnesses 135
  • 6 - Media Players 163
  • 7 - After Satire? 187
  • Reference Matter 205
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Appendix 209
  • Notes 211
  • Works Cited 245
  • Index 267
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