By Betsy Rothstein - 06/06/06 12:00 AM EDT
For Democrats and anyone else fed up with President Bush, Rick Fiore is like a dream come true.
Republicans, however, might want to steer clear of the Warehouse Theater on 7th Street N.W. when the political satirist performs his one-man skits each month that have his audience rolling with laughter.
The plump 38-year-old comedic actor, with shoulder-length curly hair, is an openly gay John Belushi who uses his talent to help take down a president he pretends to adore but really despises.
Fiore has been performing such skits since October. He charges an admission fee of $15 and pays $1,000 each month to rent the space. He only recently hired a public-relations executive, Jessica Hahn (no, not that Jessica Hahn), to spread word of his existence.
“There is fresh material every month,” says Fiore, lounging pre-show in a black T-shirt that reads “The Worst President Ever” and black shorts. “It’s all about my obsession with Bush.”
Fiore came up with the show’s title, “The Worst President Ever,” while chatting with a friend on the phone one day. “She kept saying, ‘This is the worst president ever,’” he recalls. “Hopefully it sounds funny and is going to appeal to the right group.”
Of course, the “right” group means Democrats and anyone else who wants to see a drastic shift in power in 2008.
What are his feelings about Bush?
“He’s just not competent,” says Fiore, who in his best queeny voice adds, “I just don’t think that’s appropriate when you’re president.”
He mines political Washington for material, talking to anyone who will tell him his or her political views. This has included Capitol Hill staffers, lobbyists, even tourists. He watches — what else? — Fox News for material. “It drives me insane,” he says.
Fiore’s goal is to make people laugh and make them think earnestly about the issues he calls ”so serious and deadly. People are really weighed down by them,” he says.
Hahn explains, “This isn’t all a gay-male rant, but it is part of it. He really feels that this administration has sidelined the gay community. He gets frustrated with gay people who continue to be Republican, people who he says are “left of the altar” of GOP politics
With a degree in theater and a minor in journalism from the University of Maryland, Fiore began directing in 1992 and has overseen productions at such Washington theaters as Woolly Mammoth, the Kennedy Center and Arena Stage.
Fiore walks a fine line between seriousness and outrageous irony. “My goal is to be the Anderson Cooper of the stage,” he says, referring to the CNN correspondent. “He’s so emotional, so dramatic.”
His skits include seven changes of clothing. His characters include Tommy, an 18-year-old born-again Christian who is a big Bush supporter; Gladis, an immigration worker; and the Bride of Bush who personifies his “obsession” with the president. He presents Bush as the man he wants to marry “because he’s so powerful and hot and totally sexy.”
In the opening scene of a recent night of skits, Fiore looks ridiculous as he comes out in a sequined white wedding gown and veil. Fits of laughter erupt from the 22-member audience. “Well, so much for getting my emergency manual from FEMA,” he says, talking into a cell phone. He sets up a giant cardboard Bush and says, “Oh, I know, he’s hot.”
He unfolds a checkered tablecloth on the floor for a picnic, pulls out a bunch of fresh green grapes and a miniature cardboard Bush and says, “Oh George, this private time with you really helps me sort this out. Your speech last Monday about all the illegals? Super! I totally get you.”
Slipping further into satire mode, he continues in a breathless tirade: “I hope for like five minutes that you can forget about all these scandals. Halliburton. Enron. Scooter Libby. Tom DeLay. NSA. Definitely forget about Hurricane Katrina — most Americans have.”
While he was growing up in Flatbush, N.Y., people constantly told him that he was funny. “That’s why you’re all [expletive] up when you’re older,” says Fiore, who holds back nothing when discussing his family. By age 5, Fiore moved to District Heights, Md., then at 16 he moved to San Diego. He came to Washington in 1987.
The long and short of it: Fiore is the youngest child in a family of four children where one sister is Republican, another keeps her political affiliation hidden and his brother is Republican. Although, Fiore says, “I really don’t think he’s a Republican as much as he doesn’t like people of color.” His parents are “hard-core Democrats” who “go around shouting at the television.”
Fiore is registered independent. “If they know I’m a liberal they’d write me off as some crazy left-sided loon,” he says. “If I was a Republican they might have to take me more seriously.”
The only subject that prompts any seriousness out of Fiore is his father. Four years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “He’s just sort of a little bit not there,” he says.
Among the roles that Fiore had in school plays was the three of diamonds in “Alice in Wonderland.” “I never got very many speaking roles until I got to college,” he laments with a laugh.
Fiore’s next performance is Wednesday June 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater, 1021 7th St. N.W.
Fiore’s takes on political Washington
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)