Last night, February 8, Denver's Buell Theatre was ground zero for the opposition to President Donald Trump, as a raucous, sold-out house reacted with politically charged enthusiasm during a tour stop by Pod Save America, arguably the hottest podcast in America.
Seemingly every young liberal in the city (joined by a few more seasoned folks, like yours truly) jammed into the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' plaza in the lead-up to the podcast, and while one guy standing near my contingent (consisting of my daughter, my son, and Marco Dorado, a DACA recipient praised by Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the U.S. House on Wednesday) sported an "Impeach Trump" cap, "Friend of the Pod" T-shirts were the garment of choice.
No wonder. The Pod crew of Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeiffer and special guest Alyssa Mastromonaco (whose White House memoir has been optioned by Mindy Kaling) are all former insiders with the Obama administration, but they cut their policy smarts with a cheeky sense of humor and delightfully frequent use of profanity.
During their average show, the word "fucking" is used more often than at a Migos concert — and the Denver gig was no exception.
Favreau and company had plenty to celebrate as they took the stage, given the HBO announcement that Pod Save America will create a series of one-hour specials for the service in advance of the 2018 mid-term election. But they had other GOP fish to fry. Following a brief video introduction that juxtaposed shots of Trump with footage intended to offer hope to progressives (including a clip of Doug Jones, the triumphant U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama), the quintet took their seats and rolled directly into a discussion of the chaos in Washington, D.C.
During their chat, U.S. Senator Rand Paul was holding up a budget deal because it added so heavily to the deficit. But the Podsters didn't spend much time speculating about whether a government shutdown was in the offing (one was, but it only lasted about five hours). Instead, they focused on ripping congressional Democrats for "caving" amid another shutdown mere weeks ago and leaving so-called DREAMers such as Dorado dangling.
They also offered little hope for a clean DACA fix to pass both houses of Congress, thanks largely to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, one of their favorite insult targets (along with, of course, Senator Marco Rubio). As such, they argued that the only way to guarantee victory was for Democrats to win the 2018 election.
Other topics included the brutal fall of White House staff secretary Rob Porter, ousted for abusing two wives after he'd received an integrity endorsement from chief of staff John Kelly, whom both Mastromonaco and Vietor admitted they'd once praised. Her tweets about Kelly "haven't aged well," Mastromonaco said.
Then came a break that really wasn't a break: Lovett, Favreau and Mastromonaco left the stage, but Vietor and Pfeiffer stuck around to chat with Denver's Wanda James, a groundbreaking marijuana entrepreneur and frequent Westword interview subject.
Far from descending into a barrage of weed jokes, the conversation was smart and substantial. James talked about the long prison sentence served by her brother for possessing just four ounces of weed (he actually was forced to pick cotton during his incarceration) and the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry, complete with an argument for allowing those convicted of marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes to be allowed to take part in the industry.
Oh, yeah: Vietor referred to pot-hating U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as "America's favorite evil Keebler elf." It was among the funniest remarks of the evening, along with Favreau's twinned questions: "Does Donald Trump attract bad people? Or does Donald Trump make people bad?"
After James departed, the original quintet returned for a game called "Okay, Stop," in which they picked apart a video clip of vice president and alleged "Botox enthusiast" Mike Pence hilariously refusing to answer an embarrassing question from MSNBC's Ashley Parker.
That was followed by a Q&A in which one key moment seemed to sum up Pod Save America's appeal. A young woman stepped to the microphone and complimented the Pod reps for their support of "us DACA kids" — a simple statement that prompted a spontaneous and prolonged standing ovation. The woman reacted with heartbreaking emotion, admitting, with a breaking voice, that she feels scared right now. She also said, "My question is going to sound stupid now," but it was anything but: She wanted to know if there was any chance for a Democrat to win in Utah's fourth congressional district.
The audience burst into delighted laughter at this shared moment of wonkiness, then sat back while Pfeiffer analyzed the race in ways that even amazed his cohorts.
After the show was over, the crowd remained so energized that members probably went straight into their neighborhoods and started knocking on doors and canvassing for candidates. Which is the whole idea behind Pod Save America.