Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series.
Today, every American is a Howard Beale character: They’re all mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. The left is outraged every day by President Donald Trump, free-market economics, and Russia. The right is perturbed by the mainstream media, pro-censorship Silicon Valley, and China. The American people cannot even seem to agree on the basic principles that made the United States the greatest country in the world. When your nation’s population cannot reach a shared conclusion on the fundamentals, you find yourself in a toxic wasteland where you do not even want to share the same air as your fellow man for fear of them being a liberal or a conservative, or – God forbid – a libertarian.
But Andrew Heaton has a message for everyone: Give up the boxing gloves and lighten up.
The libertarian comedian has been injecting laughter into political discourse for several years, first sharing his wit and political insight on YouTube web series EconPop and Almost Weekly. Eventually, he hit the big time, making it to Reason, the Fox Business Network, and The Blaze. Heaton’s success stems from his unique style of comedy that dishes it out against elephants, donkeys, and porcupines – something that was quite common in the Johnny Carson or even Jay Leno era just 20 or 30 years ago.
More than portraying corrupt politician Buck Schwartzmore, drinking scotch, and crafting holiday gift guides for libertarians, Heaton can take on the talking heads and provide serious insight into issues of the day. Be warned: You may not like what he has to say, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative.
In an interview with Liberty Nation, Andrew Heaton talks about how he got involved in political comedy, his time at the Fox Business Network, the state of libertarianism, President Donald Trump, Democrats in 2020, whether we will see Heaton (or Schwartzmore) run for public office in the future, and a lot more.
Liberty Nation: For those who only know you as that funny libertarian guy, tell us about yourself, what your background is, what you’re doing these days, and where they can see your work.
Andrew Heaton: So, I’m a comedian. I worked for Congress for a little while. I actually got a master’s degree in international politics, and then I bolted from Washington, D.C. to go work in New York as a comedian and television writer. Have been kind of in the milieu ever since then, doing funny political stuff that I think is outside the mainstream, left-wing/right-wing viewpoints you usually get. And the best place to check that out is the podcast that I host, Something’s Off with Andrew Heaton, where I make a fairly concerted effort to be funny and thoughtful on a regular basis, and not get into the sand traps which are the conservative and progressive echo chambers.
LN: Since you could not have worked for Buck Schwartzmore, who was this congressman? And how did you transition from politics to comedy?
AH: I worked for Dan Boren who’s a congressman from Oklahoma, or was a congressman from Oklahoma. And I worked for Tim Holden, who was a congressman from Pennsylvania. My job for both of them was pretty much the same thing, it was getting yelled at by old people, and it’s funny because I was doing that. I didn’t realize you could get paid to be funny. That had never really been a connection in my mind. And so as I was doing that during the day, and at night, while I was in Washington D.C., which is a great place to start up comedy, I would go be funny at open mics and things. I learned how to do standup while working in Washington and then ended up getting the master’s degree and coming back. And then earlier there was a point where I went, “Oh, I’m not sure I want to be a bureaucrat. I think I’d rather be funny.”
LN: When you do your standup routine, is it mostly politics, or do you delve into other topics?
AH: I do two different routines, I either do political or I do observational. I don’t like to combine them if I can avoid it, because I find that audiences get very uncomfortable when you start talking about politics if they don’t expect it. Because they’re out on a Friday night, and they’re laughing, and a lot of the time they feel that when you bring politics, you can sense this palpable tension. They’re afraid that you’re going to call on them and go, “Who did you vote for?”
And so, I prefer to either do non-political or do political; I don’t really mix them that much. That said, I get paid a lot better to do political comedy because there’s a surprising number of think tanks and political actions for things like that, that just have not found very many very pro-free market comedians, and so I wind up doing that. And then there were a lot of shows in New York I was doing as well.
LN: Up to this point, you have been with Reason, the Fox Business Network, and The Blaze. How has it been working with behemoth media figures like John Stossel?
AH: Stossel is a really nice guy who I really enjoyed working with. No, I did not work with him directly, but he was on a team adjacent to me when I worked at Fox Business for The Independents, and then Kennedy. And I think he’s a really smart dude. I found out at one point that there was some debate as to whether or not a show I was working on was going to continue – The Independents. I later found out that John had sort of already told his producer to hire me in the event that they went under because you see, he’s that nice of a guy.
And I’ll say this, Stossel is funny because he’s very smart and he has no sense of sentimentality at all. He’s like a Vulcan. He’s like a libertarian Vulcan. And when I left Fox Business, I knew that John, when he gave speeches to college campuses, would give a local Emmy, like a local Emmy trophy to whoever asked the best question. So, when I left, I just swung by his office and was like, “Hey John, if you’re passing out Emmys, I would take one.” And he went, “Why do you deserve an Emmy?” And I’m like, “Well, I’m trying to explain politics to people through an amusing manner, and I think that political satire is a better vehicle,” and he went, “Okay.” And he walked over, and he grabbed an Emmy off his wall.
I didn’t find out for like a year that he gave me one of his national Emmys, which is a really big deal. A national Emmy is a big thing to have. You would not normally give that to some cocky writer who’s cracking jokes. But he did, and then I and then I just kind of walked off. And it’s a great way to leave a building, holding an Emmy. It’s a very good feeling whenever you leave a job to have an Emmy that you were given, so you’re walking out with this trophy; your trial’s up.
LN: One thing that’s great about your videos on Reason is that you poke fun at libertarianism. It’s a welcome relief to hear libertarian comedy because it’s typical to come across libertarians who are ultra-serious, always quoting Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises. I do that all the time. So, do you think that libertarians can’t seem to poke fun at themselves, and the overall libertarian movement is too serious?
AH: That’s a great question. I have not found the libertarians to be overly serious. I do find that a lot of libertarians aren’t good at making arguments on behalf of libertarianism, because they are … Is “surfeit” the right word? I believe it means “a lot.” There’s no lack of logic and reason on behalf of libertarians, and a lot of time, the fault that they have is not a lack of reason, or intelligence, or logic, but rather that they’re not able to emotionally connect with the person that is in the room. So, that is a thing, occasionally.
That said, though, I have never received blowback for making fun of libertarians. It’s always been taken in good fun, and I don’t find that to be a problem. I also think that it’s a great spot to be, from a comedy standpoint, because, if you’re being funny, the more sacred cows you have, the harder it is to make comedy. And if you’re a progressive, you’re now generally saddled with a whole lot of political correctness that informs what you can and cannot say. And you have to think about that before you start writing the joke. And you have a whole lot of sacred cows, there.
Just like, if you’re conservative, there are a lot of things about the Founding Fathers, there are religion and all these other things. Libertarians, by virtue of being libertine … don’t have a team that they have to defend. You know, Nancy Pelosi says something stupid. Or Donald Trump says something stupid. There’s nothing that requires libertarians to swing in and try and apply salve to it. They can be equal-opportunist comedians, which I think is a great spot to be.
In the second part of this series, Andrew Heaton reveals what brought him to libertarianism, and the state of the movement in the age of President Donald Trump.
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