Comic JT Habersaat on being a 'Misanthrope' in the age of Trump
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Don't give comic JT Habersaat that pabulum that the Age of Trump might be good for artists in opposition.
"A lot of people say it will be great for comedy, for punk rock — that we'll get a lot of good art out of it," Habersaat said. "But personally, I don't think that's a worthwhile payoff for the horror of what's going to happen."
Trumpian matters were weighing heavily on Habersaat when we chatted Friday, just days after the surprising electoral success of President-elect Donald J. Trump.
It had already impacted his shows that week, both from the stage and in the audience.
"This week it's been really hard to do," Habersaat said Friday. "You can already see the ripple effect. People are just exhausted, and laughter almost feels inappropriate, but I've found it super cathartic once I'm on stage. I've been having a good time with the sets, and I feel better afterwards."
Perhaps he'll find equilibrium by the time he brings his comedy tour back to Amarillo for an 8 p.m. Tuesday show at No Dogs Allowed, 700 S.W. 10th Ave. Cover is $3 each or $5 for couples.
"I don't like to get too political in a lot of my sets. ... Comedy is very much the end result of what the f--- is going on around us, but for this multi-week run (which began Nov. 9 in Tucson, Ariz.), my focus is on letting people escape for an hour.
"Escaping the nightmare reality we find ourselves in for an hour is a positive thing."
Habersaat, a former punk music journalist who became a touring comic nearly a decade ago, thinks those frightened by Trump's incoming presidency are "just grasping at anything" when they suggest art will thrive.
"I don't know if that's a throwback to the Reagan '80s where we had a good punk rock thing," he said. "I mean, there's always been sh--heads in power, like the George W. Bush nightmare years, but I don't think there has been anything like this in terms of the xenophobia, the horrible things that will be associated with a Trump presidency.
"I have never been afraid of the government, but I'm pretty afraid of what this is going to mean," he continued. "I think he's a dreadfully unqualified hothead and everything that everyone else knows. But secondary to that, (Vice President-elect Mike) Pence is so anti-gay, and that scares me. He's someone who advocates electroshock therapy, and that scares the sh-- out of me, and add to that the Senate and the House (in Republican control). ... It's super wind-out-of-your-sails."
Yes, Habersaat has a strong opinion on such matters, as fans who have caught his regular shows in Amarillo over the past couple of years might have noticed.
"There's a degree of my having spent eight years trying to cultivate my audience that the people who come to see me are kind of a cultivated audience," he said. "That's not 100 percent, of course, but it's a lot of people that, I don't want to say they're like-minded as me, but we're coming from a similar place.
"But I certainly have gone head-to-head with people. I just did a show in New Orleans, and there was a diehard Trump idiot there, and we went at it," he said.
The epochal changes in the national political scene come as Habersaat is touring in support of Misanthrope, an album released in August that climbed to No. 2 on iTunes' comedy charts. The act fans will see in Amarillo will feature some material from that CD and DVD and some new bits.
"I just turned 40, so my basically rant-y stuff has evolved from young-man angst to middle-aged angst," Habersaat said. "I just kind of take stock of what's going on and what bothers me this week."
But, despite our heavy chat about the election, don't expect a completely political set from Habersaat — though, perhaps, opening acts Brian Zeolla and Amarillo comic Skylar Potter will pick up the slack.
"I mention it in passing because it's my job, but I didn't sit down and write a new 15 minutes saying how this sucks," Habersaat said. "I know it sucks. People who are coming to my show probably think it sucks. ... But things are a powder keg right now, so I don't want to make it worse for this tour.
"It'll be topical, but not super media-spin topical because I think everybody needs a rest from that."