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Comedian John Fugelsang on sexy liberals

From left: John Fugelsang, Stephanie Miller and Hal Sparks during their “Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour.”

RMS2 Promotions

From left: John Fugelsang, Stephanie Miller and Hal Sparks during their “Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour.”

WHO

John Fugelsang

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WHAT

The 42-year-old comedian is coming to town with Stephanie Miller’s “Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour,” which stops at the Wilbur Theatre on June 9. Fugelsang will perform alongside Miller, host of Current TV’s “Talking Liberally,” and comedian Hal Sparks.
Information about the 8 p.m. show is at www.thewilbur
theatre.com.

Q. Why “sexy” liberals?

A. The title was Stephanie’s idea. At first, my inner Catholic kid blanched at the title — my mom’s an ex-nun and my dad was a Franciscan brother — but it’s really fitting. A lot of the material is actually sexy and kind of risqué, while still being political and intelligent. And I think there’s something very sexy about progressive values. But it’s also supposed to be goofy; the biggest problem with liberals is they take themselves too seriously.

Q. How so?

‘People think about liberals and they think about angry guys in trench coats talking about soy products.’

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A. People think about liberals and they think about angry guys in trench coats talking about soy products. By us calling it “sexy,” we’re letting you know that’s not what we’re here to do.

Q. How did growing up in an extremely religious family influence your comedy?

A. I actually have a one-man show called “Guilt: A Love Story,” that deals with that very thing. There’s this idea that all Christians scream at women outside clinics, and that’s not true at all. Despite my parents’ marriage to God, my father was socially progressive. I think that the misconception about Christianity is really relatable for people, regardless of their political affiliation, so I’ve been able to reach a lot of audiences through that.

Q. Do you think that Republican or conservative comedians could put on a similar show?

A. Rush Limbaugh tried it, Bill O’Reilly tried it, but the truth is these guys aren’t stage performers. There aren’t a lot of conservative comedians to begin with because when you’re arguing for the status quo, and when you’re arguing for billionaires getting tax cuts, people don’t really think it’s very funny. Some conservative comedians will attack the homeless, or mentally retarded people, and the audience might laugh for five minutes — but then they’ll feel kind of dirty about it. We, as liberals or progressives, have the advantage because we’re attacking upward. When you are defending the most powerful people in society, no one really empathizes with that.

Q. Does your show criticize the Democratic Party at all?

A. We’ll take on Barack Obama because a lot of people think he’s caved on issues he advocated for during his campaign, so he’s definitely fair game.

Q. Are you trying to provoke some kind of political change through the show?

A. Honestly, we’re looking to entertain. We’re trying to show people new, fresh comedy. I’ve always liked political comedy and I really look up to people like George Carlin, and Bill Maher, who’s been great to me. I admire people who make me think and feel, as much as laugh. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.

Q. I’m assuming liberals in the South aren’t exactly the same as liberals in Massachusetts. Do you find yourself changing your material based on where you’re touring?

A. They’re definitely not the same, because liberals in, say, Texas, need a sense of community. Half of these people are afraid to have an Obama bumper sticker on their car because they’re afraid what their church might say. I think progressive people usually feel alone among their neighbors and co-workers because they don’t have enough bald-eagle paraphernalia on their car. When we tour in places like that, we’re not changing the material as much as we are reassuring these folks they’re not crazy or alone.

Q. If Obama wins the election again, how do you think that will influence your comedy, since you’re relying mostly on the conservatives for entertainment?

A. You know, we’re trying to make it more about the issues than about the individuals. This past year has been great; we’ve had eight Republicans to make fun of, and I’m really going to miss my Michele Bachmann jokes. But I think regardless of who wins, even though I think Mitt Romney is hilarious, people in the audience enjoy talking about the issues. Like I said, a lot of my material is about religion, and I think that appeals to the conservative people who don’t really agree with right-wing Christianity. So it’s more about topics than personalities.
Erica Thompson

Interview was edited and condensed. Erica Thompson can be reached at erica.thompson@
globe.com.
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