Wow, Mark Russell sure has gotten way edgier from his days of slinging bland political humor on PBS specials.
I loved the first series.
Looking forward to seeing where this one goes.
(And sorta not, but hey, billionaires.)
Wonderful, right down to the rocket designs
In the grand tradition of Upton Sinclair’s “Depression Island,” an idea he couldn’t sell to the movies but he used and expanded in his 1934 campaign to become Governor of CA under the “End Poverty in CA” or EPIC banner (and Democratic Party nominee):
I must not forget “Depression Island.” In my book, “The Way Out,” written before the EPIC movement started, I had used the illustration of three men cast ashore upon a tropical island; I imagined what would happen to them while they were free, and then the situation if one of them came to own the island. I made a story out of it - three or four pages - and when the EPIC movement got going people began begging me to take up this idea and make it into a play or motion picture. I wrote it as a scenario for a picture, a two-reel comedy.
Since the picture producers refuse any story which suggest any thing wrong with the profit system, we decided to raise the money and make “Depression Island” for ourselves. I spent five days visiting in the palaces of the rich, begging for a loan of thirty-five hundred dollars. I was able to get pledges amounting to seventeen hundred - of which five hundred was withdrawn two or three days after it was pledged! So the motion picture version of “Depression Island” still waits.
Some of our people demanded it as a stage show, which could be made to pay for itself. So in due course the Shrine auditorium was rented and our clubs were put at work selling tickets. We borrowed the “set” of a tropical island from a motion picture concern, and one evening an audience of three or four thousand assembled.
The curtain went up on three castaways searching for water and something to eat. There was an entirely practical cocoanut tree and highly realistic fish, both fresh and dried. There magically arose a hut. The three men were happy, because if Abie charged too many cocoanuts for a fish, Bing and Crunk could go out and get their own fish; and the same with cocoanuts and huts.
The only trouble was they became bored and took to gambling, and Crunk, a realtor from Los Angeles, won the ownership of the island and also the fishing rights. At once everything was changed, for Crunk put Abie and Bing to work for him, and paid them only one cocanut and one dried fish per day for their labors. He made them pile up dried fish and cocoanuts for him, and when they had piled up more than he could use, he told them he was very sorry but there was no more work for them. When they asked the reason, he said there was a depression on the island, and when they wanted to know what they should do about it, he told them that was their problem, not his. Crunk was a believer in “rugged individualism.”
So of course there arose the problem of social unrest. Abie, a little Jewish song writer from New York, insisted upon helping himself to cocoanuts, whereupon Crunk, owner of the island, hired Bing as policeman and ordered him to put Abie into jail. When Abie tried to persuade Bing that this was all nonsense, and that he and Bing should take the island away from Crunk, the latter called that criminal syndicalism, and urged Bing not to listen to any of that red talk. Bing was a taxicab driver from Chicago, and told Abie that he was a Democrat and a patriot, and believed in law and order; he obeyed the owner of the island, and Abie had to surrender, and be put on a dole of half a dried fish and half a cocoanut a day.
You can imagine how an audience of EPIC enthusiasts roared over these sallies. The story went on to satirize all the developments of the depression. When Crunk started to publish a newspaper and hired Abie to write editorials to tell Bing that the social system was ordained by God, the actors had to stop and wait for the audience to get over laughing.
Finally Abie hit upon the idea of persuading Bing to political action. Bing, a loyal one hundred per cent American, would not listen to red talk, but he was quite ready to hear that they needed an election on that island. So they founded the Democratic party, and Abie wrote a platform, and elected himself Governor and Bing Lieutenant-Governor, and proceeded to impose an income tax on the rich, to cover the deficit and pay salaries of the public officials.
The master of ceremonies at this show was my friend, Lewis Brown, and he helped in the ending of the play. I had really been too busy to think up an ending, and had quit at the point where Crunk refused to recognize the government, and he and Bing got into a civil war. At that point the master of ceremonies came running onto the scene protesting that brawling would not solve the social problem, The actors said that that was as far as the script went, and it was up to the author to tell them what to do next. So then there was a shout, “Author! Author!” and the author of "Depression Island’ was dragged onto the stage, and persuaded to tell the audience how this problem of want in the midst of plenty could be solved by majority consent.
More on that campaign at Hubevents Notes: I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked by Upton Sinclair
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