Satirist targets ‘dark comedy’ of current US politics with parody sites of GOP leaders

He was shouted down the street by Rep Lauren Boebert in her stronghold of Rifle, Colorado. He has the personal email of a high-level Texas governor’s staffer because a woman answering office phones mistook him for an employee. His websites are shared in the political aisle.

All from a 51-year-old comedian who barely used his Twitter account until 2019.

It was then that Toby Morton, who writes for shows like South Park and MadTV, began to turn its satirical gaze to the spiraling political turmoil in the United States.

“There was so much going on with Trump and everything,” said Morton, who splits his time between Los Angeles, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Independent. “I just wanted to get involved, just mess around. At the time, I had, you know, 30 followers [on Twitter]but I just wanted to have fun.

He adds: “At that time, I saw that there was a politician, a guy in… a small town, where he bought a domain from his opponent and redirected that domain to his own – and I thought that was super clever.

“And at the same time, I thought, man, he could have had a lot more fun with it. But he’s in politics, so he probably couldn’t… I decided, oh, what kind of idiot wouldn’t take over his domain?

More than a few politicians, he quickly discovered it.

First in his sights was California Republican and former House Representative Devin Nunes, who was already ruthlessly parodied on Twitter by a now infamous account called “Devin Nunes’ Cow” – an account he has (until now) unsuccessfully pursued and inadvertently created. even more popular. @DevinCow had approximately 1,200 followers at the time the complaint was filed in 2019; the count now has more than 760,000.

The congressman was about to have an even bigger headache when Mr. Morton realized that the “DevinNunes2020.com” site was up.

“It was the very first one I had, and I took that area and just started making a website – just some animations there and blog stories and just fake stories, in somehow onion-type stories, and just ran with it from there. And then @DevinCow tweeted this, and then people loved it – and more started following me and more started following me, then I started getting these requests [like] ‘Oh, you should do that person.’

“So I just started grabbing domains left and right and just started building websites.”

Since then, other parody sites created by Mr. Morton for politicians include Republican Governor Abbott; Elise Stefanik; Lauren Boebert; Kevin McCarthy; Jim Jordan; Matt Gaetz; and Marco Rubio.

Mr. Morton’s content is irreverent and shrewd: In the Colorado congresswoman’s introductory biography on The LaurenBoebert.com – along with her makeup-free photo – she is described as “Professional failure, illegal stalker of Nancy Pelosi, wife of a man who reported himself to a minor, a QAnon believer, a restaurant owner who gives you diarrhea because we don’t believe in health codes, and the daughter of a woman who was definitely at the riots in the Capitol but in no way she was part of the actual riot because that would be wrong and she is completely sane so stop mentioning it.

Mr Morton, who has just celebrated his son’s first birthday, has started making the sites fun – but increasingly worrying political developments have made them (and him) more serious, he says

(Toby Morton)

The sites were a marked departure for the comedian, given that he had previously “gone out of his way to stay out of politics. “I’ve always been afraid to try to be politically humorous, because I still don’t know much about politics – although I’m a bit knee-deep in it now,” Mr Morton said. . The Independent.

“I think some things are funny, but I can’t sit down with somebody and, you know, debate policy, policy to policy, but I can tell you what I find funny about them.”

However, as he dove deep into each of the politicians he had created sites for – happily choosing the quotes and actions of each he found most outrageous – the rhetoric and events across the country escalated. . The real-life comedic aspect certainly remained, but he was the type that could elicit a smirk with a nod — not a knee-slapping belly laugh.

“The Republican Party is nothing more than a joke,” Mr Morton says. “It’s not what it used to be anymore, and although I said I had never been involved in politics – I never wanted to be – I was close enough to it to grow until I knew what Republicans were. But that’s who they are now [now] … I don’t even know how to explain what they are anymore.

“It’s a black comedy, and it’s just ridiculous. It’s almost like I don’t write as much as I used to, because it’s basically me pointing the finger [things] out… I mean, I can try to be funny, but it’s hard to top what they actually do.

With that comes a growing sense of duty and responsibility on his part, Morton says. When an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, the comedian already had an existing estate for Governor Abbott – but the atrocity prompted him to expand the site.

Parody sites feature political statements from Republican leaders such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott

(GovernorGregAbbott.com)

“Something like Uvalde happens, then I get angry,” he says. “I think Gregg Abbott’s and even Elise Stefanik’s aren’t as funny as what I’ve done before. And I actually noticed that the other day” when creating GovernorGregAbbott.com.

As he often does, he wrote a script, left it for a few days and then came back to reevaluate his work with fresh eyes.

This time he thought, “Well, shit, that’s not even funny, but I’m proud of it,” he said.

“So I realize that I’m actually, without thinking too much about it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m really trying to focus on this guy and what he’s doing and how bad it is, and I “I hope I can still be funny,” said Mr. Morton The Independent.

“But Jesus Christ, there’s really nothing to be funny about.”

He cites himself as a great example of how comedy and online content can play a crucial role in political discourse today, especially when it comes to capturing apolitical or voting-age youth. .

“I didn’t want anything to do with politics before, and because there’s so much humor and so much ridiculousness in it, I’m now drawn in,” he says. “I want to know more about who is racing against whom, because I didn’t care before – but now even people I don’t work with [for] websites, I pay more attention to other people on the spectrum that I don’t even touch, but I want to know what’s going on. It’s crazy.”

He’s heard first-hand stories of how people actually become similarly interested after reading his sites.

“It’s to the point where people are taking my websites and setting up the domains at restaurants and other places – like, in Ohio, GymJordan2022.com, there are people in Ohio taking my sites Web and put them in places like restaurants just kind of incognito.People print them.

Morton’s websites, such as TheLaurenBoebert.com, use domain names that sound and look official until the satirical content becomes apparent.

(TheLaurenBoebert.com)

“People actually pay enough attention to these where – I’m not going to say I make a difference – but I know for a fact that there are people who didn’t pay attention to them before who say now, literally, like, ‘Man, that’s awesome. I’m actually going to come out and vote this person out.

His Republican targets, clearly, are not thrilled; Mr Morton had a particular feud with outspoken Colorado Republican Ms Boebert, whose staffer sent him a cease and desist letter which he later posted online. Mr Morton and a friend had a personal encounter with her in her Rifle constituency while filming content courtesy of a company opposite Shooters, her gun-themed restaurant, he says .

“This lady starts screaming across the street, and she’s like on fire,” Mr Morton said The Independent. “And we look around her, like, is she yelling at us?” And of course, she’s just going, ‘What are you doing? Who are you?’ …my friend says, ‘It’s Lauren Boebert.’

“I was like, there’s no way it’s Lauren Boebert – and it was. I was like, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s back up and go, we don’t need to interact .

“I went back to the hotel; he went to the parking lot to put everything in his car – and that’s when she followed him to the parking lot and started filming him. And that’s when he picked up his phone and started filming.

“The crazy thing is that later the pictures from her phone were uploaded to this engraver account…and they totally denied it was Lauren Boebert, even though it was images from his phone like two hours earlier.

“And I was like, ‘This can’t happen. She’s not that stupid.

Earlier this month, Mr Morton tweeted an email threatening legal action sent by a representative of New York Congresswoman Stefanik.

“I’m giving you this weekend to take down the website or deal with other action,” the email read. “We have written a petition to shut down your website.”

The comedian has been in contact with the Governor Abbott people, in addition to having a handy email a staff member gave him when he said he ran GovernorGregAbbott.com and needed to get a list of questions for the Republican leader. Curiously, at least two of the governor’s employees subscribed to the parody site, according to Mr Morton – and three from Marco Rubio’s camp.

Mr Morton definitely received angry messages from Tory voters who were unhappy with his satire, although he was not overly concerned about threats to his safety. However, he acknowledges that the unstable political climate has made comedy much riskier.

“I never would have thought, in a million years…and it’s so cliché to say, but I really wouldn’t have thought of this: that it’s dangerous to be funny,” says- he. The Independent. “Because people don’t have a sense of humor and these people are dangerous.”

And he hopes his efforts will catch the attention of the masses and inspire people to push for change that will make the country safer for everyone, especially young people. Notably, Mr. Morton’s son just celebrated his first birthday.

“Even before my son was born, I would always have had the kind of knee-jerk reaction, like, ‘Oh man, something has to be done’” about tragedies like Uvalde, he says. “Anyone who’s human must have this gut reaction…but having a one-year-old, I immediately thought, ‘Well, I guess it’s homeschooling for this one. “”

Although only to a small extent, he hopes his humor and observations on parody sites will “continue to be entertaining for people”.

“If it gets a few people to the polls, then fantastic,” Mr Morton said. “I would love for more people to come out because of them.”

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