Is Toronto in need of a fool? American monologist Mike Daisey seems to think so.
Our mayor is an easy punchline and an easier punching bag. On slow news days, he fills the vacuum with a reality show-esque wildness: tantrums, meltdowns, and an angry hulking presence that is easy to mythologize and dehumanize. It is hard to turn away.
Daisey’s one-man show Dreaming of Rob Ford is not what you might expect. The jokes come: they come hard, and they come fast. And they are funny. Even incisive. But they are not so much Ford jokes as they are jokes about Canadians, the media, and our dark fascination with the walking wrecks that populate our world. Schadenfreude, Daisey tells us, is when you derive pleasure from the miseries of others. Our Ford fixation, he’s convinced, is a case of this.
Daisey claims he’s got one thing on everyone else who’s doing a show on Ford: he’s smoked crack in Toronto. This is how far he was willing to go to get into our mayor’s head. But this is not what sets Daisey apart. The strength and power of his show is not in how well he’s able to read Rob Ford, but in how well he’s able to read you and me and everyone else watching this sideshow.
Under Daisey’s deft touch, Ford becomes a sympathetic person — a man battling an addiction in the harsh glare of a public spotlight. Yes, he’s flawed. Yes, he’s a bully. Yes, he shouldn’t be in public office. But he is human. In this two hour monologue, Daisey reveals Ford’s vulnerability, and in turn, his own in the face of overwhelming public hate.
No stranger to controversy, Daisey came under fire in 2012 when his show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which aired on NPR’s This American Life, was found to contain fabricated elements. The backlash hit Daisey hard. He was deluged with hate mail, and he found himself contemplating suicide. In the show, Daisey talks about how devastating it is when the world thinks its hate at you. This is the monologue you don’t hear when you read the headlines.
Daisey is a master story-teller. He can sit in a chair, under harsh spotlights, and keep you captivated for hours. He is a presence. Dreaming of Rob Ford runs a little long, but this is a hilarious, sensitive, and unusual take on our tragic-comic figure of a mayor. It’s worth a trip to the east end.