Comedian Lee Camp Denies Russia Controls His Message

Lee Camp, standup comedian, of Redacted Tonight.
Lee Camp, standup comedian, of Redacted Tonight.
Lee Camp, host of political comedy show Redacted Tonight on RT America, is coming to Denver for a Friday night performance at the Mercury Cafe.

Known for his bold left-wing criticism of establishment politics in the U.S., Camp has been performing on the comedy circuit for twenty years. Critics have accused him of being a lackey of the Russian government, which is something that he adamantly denies.

Marilyn Megenity, longtime owner of the Mercury, is excited for the show. "He's been here before, and it has been great. He's a smart lefty," she says.

To those accusing Camp of being a Russian propagandist, Megenity responds, "Come listen to Lee. Then decide after the show."

Westword  caught up with Camp ahead of his show. 

Westword: What should we expect from the show?

Lee Camp: I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for twenty years. It’s my brand of stand-up comedy. Politically aware and politically active. It's very similar to my TV show, Redacted Tonight. The topics are similar, but maybe a little edgier, a little more laugh-centric than the TV show at times. I’ve done many shows in Denver before, including several at Mercury Cafe. All of them have been amazing. The last one was sold out. We're dealing with dire times, not only in the country, but in the world. Comedy is a great way to deal with it. To laugh through the tears.

Should we expect breaking news woven into the material?

I put out a book five years ago that I still give out at my shows. My point is, the reason the book is still unfortunately topical is because nothing has changed at the deepest level of our country. I do a couple of jokes about Trump and then tell the crowd, "That’s all you are going to hear about Trump for the next couple hours." He’s a symptom of what’s going on in our country and our world. He didn’t invent racism. I try to talk about these greater truths. I could've done the same show five years ago.

Do you get any hecklers?

I don’t have it much. I think that now, most of the people who come to my shows want to see my shows. Most people, if they just hear what I’m saying, most people in this country agree. Why are we at war in seven countries that Congress hasn’t approved of? There's a lot of agreement in what we talk about. I think that most of America agrees with these issues if you remove the labels.

What do you say to people who criticize you for working for RT?

In my comedy, in my writing, in my life, I’m not willing to throw the American people under the bus to do pro-corporate crap, the propaganda you see on corporate airwaves. There are very few channels left where you can speak of these things, go after corporations that own our systems and own most of our politicians. I have a TV show on RT America because I have been given complete freedom. I write my own words.

Are you going to talk about Putin?

I haven’t planned my set out. Nothing is off limits. I've talked about the Russiagate stuff. The New York Times and NPR did hit pieces on me. They tried to say, "Oh, he refuses to talk about Russia." They try to claim I don't talk about Russiagate, but in fact I've talked about it many times. I just don't talk about it in the way the corporate media wants me to. We're in the middle of neo-McCarthyism.

Are there any candidates for the 2018 election who excite you?

There are definitely some who show a lot of promise. I don’t like to say this person is always right. I don't know much about Ocasio-Cortez in New York, since she hasn’t been in office. But it was a win for certain ideals. People were voting for abolishing ICE, Medicare for All, and talking about climate change. It was a win for those ideas. Those ideas are what I support, not any one person. A lot of our system has been bought out by powerful, moneyed interests. It’s really a screwed-up system. We need to get back to a system where money is largely removed from politics.

Lee Camp, 8 p.m. Friday, September 14, Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, $15; drinks at 5 p.m. Show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 15, Nomad Playhouse, 1410 Quince Avenue, Boulder, $15 to $36. 
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.