It’s a common belief that Los Angeles is plastic and shallow. A place for personal politics, not world affairs. This past weekend Washington DC invaded the downtown Los Angeles convention center with Politicon, the self described “unconventional political convention”, a “Comic-con of politics.” For 2 days a blend of socially conscious comedians and DJs blended with left and right wing pundits, authors, K Street consultants and representatives for panel discussions, debates, film screenings and performances that brought out a population of La La Land rarely seen around the perimeter of Hollywood.
Friday, October 9th was highlighted by a live broadcast from the insanely popular rogue pundits The Young Turks. Cenk Uygur and the Turks were in demand as the new documentary about him, Mad As Hell, was screened along with new docs The Runner Up and The Hunting Ground, a new film about sexual assault on US College campuses. As UCLA’s debate team held court upstairs beside panels on gun control, campaign speech writing and Islamaphobia, downstairs in Democracy Village improv comedy from The Upright Comedy Brigade made light of the 2016 presidential campaign, slam poets shared some words and DJ sets by area mixers including KCRW’s Jeremy Sole (and myself) featured socially conscious music from around the world.
Saturday brought in a long list of beltway celebrities including James Carville, Newt Gingrich, Michael Steele and more pundits from some of TV and radio’s most popular programs. Beginning at 10am things jumped off with some Hollywood business as producers discussed the art of documentary filmmaking. A passionate panel featuring the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement updated a crowd on the progress made over the past year with help from moderator and MSNBC host/journalist Toure. Drawing one of the biggest crowds was the lightening rod for controversy, right wing author Ann Coulter, who went toe-to-toe in a debate with the equally outspoken Cenk Uygur.
Closing out the night was the man of the moment Trevor Noah. Only a 2-weeks into his new position as Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show, Noah was the most talked about personality for the days leading up to Politicon. At 7:00pm Freedom Hall brought together a comedic climax to the weekend with the “Roast Master General” Jeff Ross, Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead and topped off by Noah. The night came to a close with Noah in a one-on-one conversation with the always poignant, and comical in his own right, James Carville.
Politicon succeeded in bringing some much-needed counterprogramming to Hollywood. Substance starved Californians were pleased with the opportunity to congregate, be informed and also entertained. Although DC would have most likely packed the place, the inaugural year was a valiant effort that should warrant a 2nd round return to Southern California in 2016.
– Dominic Painter
PHOTO CREDIT: volchekshot.me