Stephanie Miller’s Sexy Liberal Blue Wave Tour hits the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles on Nov. 3, where John Fugelsang and special guests will be joining the host for one last night on stage before the midterm election. In 2011, Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour, Vol 1. (with Fugelsang and Hal Sparks) became the first political comedy album ever to hit No. 1 on the iTunes, Amazon, and Billboard Comedy Charts. Their show became the fastest-selling comedy tour in history. They relaunched it in 2016 for the election year, and then came back in 2017, this time as Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Resistance Tour. The 2018 iteration comes just in time for liberals, in the hopes that they get to ride the blue wave into the polling booths on Nov. 6.
The three-show tour began in D.C., stopped in Chicago, and will wrap up in Los Angeles on Saturday. Radio talk show star and best-selling author, Stephanie Miller, will be accompanied by Twitter hero/comedian/SiriusXM host John Fugelsang, along with special guest Margaret Cho. Celebrity guest panelists include Rob Reiner, Martin Sheen, Congressman Ted Lieu, and Congressman Adam Schiff.
While Fugelsang’s presence in the Twitterverse is currently a beacon of light among left-leaning voters, the comedian’s history of tying the two worlds together actually pre-dates social media; going back to 1998 with “The Daily Show” and Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.” In the late ‘90s, Fugelsang also anchored “America's Funniest Home Videos,” and as a host on VH1, sat with both Paul McCartney and George Harrison in the same week. His famous interview with the late Beatle would turn out to be Harrison’s final performance.
AXS: I have to ask you what those experiences were like sitting down with both Paul McCartney and George Harrison. What’s your perspective on those interviews looking back?
John Fugelsang: I interviewed two Beatles on different continents in the same week. I was set to go over to London to do a special with Paul McCartney, and they told me at the last minute that I needed to stay in New York an extra day for George Harrison and Ravi Shankar. George was my hero in many ways. I collected bootlegs as a teenager. I knew every B-side he ever released. As someone whose parents were both ex-clergy, who was raised Catholic, like George, I always admired how he continued to evolve spiritually. I wound up asking him a lot of questions about death and the soul, about God and about meditation, and he wound up staying for about four hours. At one point, I put a guitar in his hand and he played an impromptu four-song set. He hadn’t done a concert in America since the ‘70s, and it wound up being his final public performance. It was one of my first interviews, I was a young comic. I was nervous. I couldn’t stop making inappropriate jokes. George was very loving and warm and didn’t seem to mind. As the years have gone by I’ve been able to forgive my younger self. I meet people from all walks of life who were very spiritually touched by that conversation. The day he died, they ran all of the footage that had never aired. It was George and this 26-year-old kid talking about the soul and what happens when you die. It was pretty moving for me on more than one occasion.
AXS: So, which Beatles song do you think all of us could stand to learn something from today?
JF: I might have to go to the solo catalog. This is a time when the divisions are really deep so I would want to go to some John Lennon for "Gimme Some Truth." Likewise, it’s a time when I think protest is good and I would listen to Wings’ "Give Ireland Back to the Irish." It was banned by the BBC because McCartney was singing very well about subjects that you weren’t supposed to discuss on the airwaves. I think for George, I would say, "Horse to the Water" because you’re dealing with a difficult cult member of a political ideology, or maybe just “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).”
AXS: Politics and comedy seem to have always gone hand in hand for you. How early on did you know that you had a passion for both and what was the moment when you learned that mixing the two was a sort of magical recipe?
JF: My father was a history teacher and was obsessed with social justice and politics. As kids, my dad would take us to different presidents’ houses around the country and I developed a real love for that. For my dad, spirituality, morality, and politics were always hand in hand. The struggle of Gandhi, the struggle of Dr. King, the struggle of Medgar Evers - that was all the same struggle of Christ to my father. So, politics and religion were very ingrained, but from a progressive point of view. Really, it was seeing George Carlin live for the first time that changed my life. I was very young. It was at the height of the first Persian Gulf War. It had a 93 percent approval rating. We had a feel-good war and I was terrified about what that meant for the future. George Carlin, this was back in the Jammin' in New York tour, he walks on stage and completely eviscerates the war and the mentality behind it; tears it to shreds. It was the most fearless thing I had ever seen. He had all the veracity of a preacher. But he was using humor to make his points and making 100 percent of the room laugh at a joke about something 93 percent of them statistically would be opposed to. I couldn’t believe the power of it. He did something that is the most powerful thing an artist can do - he made me feel like I was less alone. And he made me feel like someone was articulating something that was in my heart that I couldn’t put into words. That inspires me to this day.
AXS: So, now you’re bringing the tour back with Stephanie Miller. Tell me, why the name change, why these three cities? And what has the reaction been from people?
JF: Well, if I had it my way, we would do it every year with a different name, and do it all over the place because I never in my life have been part of a comedy tour like this. We sold out some of the best theaters in the country. From The Chicago Theatre to the Pantages in L.A., to the Detroit Opera House, the Beacon; and seeing so many people who are like-minded politically. As much fun as it is to play gorgeous theaters, to play big rooms and to do an all political set, the feeling of community is stronger than ever at a time when people feel like they’re losing their sanity. The audience is having a great time before the show even starts because they know that they’re in a room full of people that get it. To me, that has been the most moving thing about it. We’ve had everybody from Lily Tomlin to Rob Reiner, we’ve had people like Aisha Tyler and Hal Sparks perform on this tour. Joy Reid has joined us on stage at events, I had Lewis Black call in on his cell phone during a show once that we did in New York. This coming weekend, for the final show of the whole tour we’re going to have two congressmen. We’re going to have former U.S. President Martin Sheen, and of course, Rob Reiner is going to join us. It’s always a fun event. Part of it is obviously the comedy, then the panel with the special guests we get, and then just the vibe in the room. It’s a deeply offensive and a deeply moral event at the same time.
AXS: As someone who has such a strong voice on Twitter, do you think social media is hurting us or helping us?
JF: I think it’s both. Social media is like America. Whatever you want to see there, you’ll see it. And every possible way it can go, morally and spiritually, it’s going to go. Just like in America, you’ll find the most debased, selfish, cult-like, mean people, and you’ll also find people of great generosity and grace and kindness and wisdom in America. Social media is no different. Twitter is something that I wish I had to prepare me for junior high because really that’s all it is. They’ve taken to the internet and grown men can be mean girls. You have these cowardly men who are so wounded in their experience that they will hide their identity, hide their name, hide their face, go on the internet, and attack people who have never once bothered them because of a difference in policy beliefs. That’s where we’re at. There’s incredible negativity and darkness, there’s incredible inspiration and grace, friendships are made, relationships are formed, people fall in love, people find old friends, people get inspired every day through social media, people are turned on to new ideas, new policies, new politicians, new art, new music; to me it’s like the rest of humanity. Social media is just a continuation of that. You get to see where people’s ids will take them.
Click here for tickets to see the comedian and some very special guests before the show sells out. Stephanie Miller’s Sexy Liberal Blue Wave Tour lands at the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles on Nov. 3.