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Roasting the 2016 candidates: 'Make America Laugh Again'

Bridging divides

Across the country, Americans are weary of the Trump-Clinton race, but in Miami, comedians took aim at the candidates – and promoted youth civic engagement along the way.

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Laughs have been few and far between on the campaign trail, but for comics, this election has been golden.

Andrew Harnik/AP

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“Comedy is tragedy plus time, but why wait?”

With that, Comic Cure’s “Make America Laugh Again” – a roast of the 2016 presidential candidates – kicked off Tuesday night in Miami. Part stress-relief for folks weary of this bizarre presidential race, part competition for local comedians, the event had a serious side: to promote youth engagement in civic affairs, including showing up to vote.

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But it was the political humor that stole the show, much of which can’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

“They told me not to work blue tonight, so I’m going to work orange,” said roast-master and filmmaker Billy Corben, pointing up at a photo of Donald Trump.

As expected, the Republican nominee bore the brunt of the jokes, but Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein of the Green Party were also singed.

“Hillary Clinton isn’t here tonight – we tried to invite her, but she kept deleting the emails,” said Mr. Corben.

Ben Zieper, a high school student from Weston, Fla., got off some of the best (publishable) lines of the night.

“On my computer, I noticed a lotta these guys are kinda like the keys on my keyboard,” said Ben, who was the winner of the 2015 Brickell Comedy Festival. “Trump’s the alt-right. Bernie’s the shift-left. Clinton’s delete all. Johnson’s the space bar. And Stein’s the function key. Jill Stein served a purpose at some point, but I’m not sure anyone knows what that is anymore.”

Ben speculated on what Clinton will call herself if she wins: Madame President? Mrs. President? President Clinton? Then he floated his preferred option: “Just to mess with Trump, you make everyone call you ‘Miss USA.’ ”

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Next up, Shana Manuel, who noted Trump’s cameo in the 1992 movie “Home Alone 2” – about a kid abandoned by his parents at Christmastime.

“I’m sure that was good preparation for Trump,” said Ms. Manuel, a criminal defense attorney by day. “He was recently abandoned by the Republican Party during the election season.”

The laughs flowed freely among the 300 or so people who attended the event at the Flamingo Theater Bar in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.

“It’s been a rough political cycle, I needed to get my laugh on,” said Kylin Johnson of Miami.

All who attended were offered voter guides covering national, state, and local races in the Nov. 8 election. Local civic leaders served as judges – including state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R), who was fired by Trump on Season 5 of “The Apprentice.” True story.

The comedic lineup reflected the diversity of South Florida.

“On the dais tonight, we have four Jews, two black people, three Hispanics, a Muslim, and two homosexuals,” said Corben. “Or, as Donald Trump calls us, deported.”

Another standout was Jessica Fernandez, president of Miami-Dade Young Republicans.

“You may have already heard my jokes, since I stole them all from Michelle Obama,” said Ms. Fernandez, alluding to Melania Trump’s plagiarism scandal during the Republican National Convention. “Thank you, Michelle.”

Fernandez also bemoaned the fate of the GOP’s two Hispanic presidential candidates.

“This was supposed to be our year,” Fernandez said. “We had two Republicanos up for president – we had Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz – well, we don’t claim Ted Cruz. The Democrats had Julián Castro, who was this close to being vice president, but Hillary said, ‘We need a Spanish-speaker instead.’ ”

Fernandez kept going on Clinton: “I agree, Hillary’s a fighter. We all agree with Donald, that’s one of her best qualities. That’s how she’s managed to destroy more cellphones than Samsung.”

Another talent, Peruvian native Cristian Munarriz, also went long on the Latino theme.

“My name is Cristian, and I haven’t dressed this bad since the last time I got deported,” said Mr. Munarriz, winner of the 2016 Latin American Comedy Festival. “Latinos are like clouds in the sky, we were made to cross the borders.”

He said he supports the Democratic Party, “because they have shown me the American dream is real. All I had to do is sign up for unemployment.”

Sara Yousuf, board chair of Engage Miami, welcomed the audience, and threw in a little public service announcement. (The event served as a fundraiser for Engage Miami, which promotes civic participation among Millennials, and The Plantain, a Miami-based humor website.)  

“If we want a city that actually reflects our values, we’re going to have to work for it,” said Ms. Yousuf, a public defender for Miami-Dade County. “That means registering to vote, becoming informed voters…. It means showing up to commission meetings, and speaking when it comes time for public comment.”

Millennials are now the biggest generation, but getting young voters to register and turn out can be tricky. They are transient, and may not see the value of their vote. Most Millennials are too young to remember the contested presidential election of 2000, when Democratic nominee Al Gore lost Florida to Republican George W. Bush by just 537 votes.

Florida remains the nation’s biggest battleground state, and polls show the race here is tight.

As for the comedy competition, audience members were invited to vote along with the judges onstage. We had to leave before the results were announced, but Justin Wales, founder and vice chair of Engage, filled us in.

“The winners were Ben Zieper and Cristian Munarriz,” said Mr. Wales, who is also founder and editor in chief of The Plantain, and a Miami lawyer. “But the election was obviously rigged.”


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