Climate activist groups form a matchmaking program to help their LGBTQ organizers build up a love life. The deep and profound parallels between both social movements of climate justice and gay liberation generates a renewable supply of "Flam-Boi-ant" humor.
This lovelorn comedic adventure is held together by a series of strategically arranged word puns which fit together like pieces of a complex puzzle.
Carbon Man--Dating impacts the audience on multiple levels of head and heart simultaneously-- a creative balance that is stimulating both mentally and affectionately.
Here are some Featured Reviews from when I performed this content as part of the 2019 Minnesota Fringe Festival show:
I have never experienced a performance like this, which is exactly what I love about the Fringe Festival show. Samelson combines an endearing, almost coming-of-age fictional gay love story with the stark, all-too-real reality of the climate crisis. The writing lands the homo-playful climate puns blow after blow. As a person who is in both the queer and climate activist communities, this show was spot on. The language comes fast, so people who aren't up to snuff with climate activism may find themselves falling behind. Very fun! - T. S.
Witty Climate Activism Meets the Gay Experience
Taking his audience on an intellectually stimulating journey where everything carries a double meaning (or more), climate activist Lee Samelson reminds all what's at stake in a time where climate change ravages our world. With a Powerpoint at-the-ready and countless facts, Lee's presentation will leave you more aware than you began. Also openly exploring the depths of his own experience of angst as a gay man on the fringes of the dating world, he moves from topic to topic, hilariously exploring multiple themes at one time. The more closely you listen, the more details you can learn about climate change, Lee's own journey, and the plethora of topics he covers. If you like word-play, puns, and unpacking layers of meaning, you will love Lee Samelson's heady and amazing routines that both educate and humorously tickle the audiences. If you like word-play and unpacking humor that requires deep thinking, see Lee Samelson's show. Fair warning: you'll have to concentrate and be ready to think, but it's well worth it. - D. C.
Very deep puns
Loved Lee's show of deep, multi-layered climate-dating puns. The volume of content of these 5 shows, which are all different from one another, is absolutely stunning. You can tell Lee's been working on this for a long time. It's a great show with metric tons of laughs. - R. H.
AP Climate + Puns
full of clever, high-level inside-jokes and puns on climate accords and the intimate parts of dating... It's great a great length at 60 minutes - the only thing I would add is 5 minute overview at the beginning to get beginners up to speed. would recommend. - A. M.
Punniest intelligent monologue ever!
Rapid fire juxtapositions and slick segues peppered with puns challenged my mental capacity and tickled my funnybone. Lee has a unique vision of how the hot topics of climate change and sexual identity intersect. - C. H.
Very Funny & Very Real
This comic monologue by a 1-man pun machine is very clever, super funny, and also not afraid to be real about relationships formed in the context of the awareness of climate catastrophe. Some of that awareness, as well as a few basic points remembered from high school chemistry, will help you get some of the puns, but if not, don't worry because they come a mile a minute. You probably will need to see it twice to catch all the subtle humor involved! -J. M.
A Cool Take on Dating in a Warming World
Lee brings a fresh perspective to Minnesota Fringe as he explores the interplay between climate activism and gay dating. As we all search for our place in relation to each other and to our changing world, these seemingly unrelated topics are an unexpected platform for his offbeat sense of humor and endearing delivery. - J. B.
Outstandingly Clever and Exceedingly Important
Lee takes the audience through his presentation (which is filled with punch lines) to engage with important topics. Climate Justice becomes “Climate Just-Us” in this romance saga. Each show has unique content. Bravo. - K. A.
This show was extremely funny and thought that the connection between climate change issues and queer issues were well highlighted. -L. G.
Lee's show is funny and clever, even if your knowledge of climate and the environment is "green". The visual effects helped illustrate the concepts. Would definitely recommend. - P. K.
Don't Trust Atoms - They Make Up Everything
After this show you'll realize global warming is heating EVERYTHING up. Wink wink nudge nudge. No one can turn almost anything into a pun or play on words like Lee. Bring your brain and leave with a smile. - S. S.
The Grand plotline broken up into 7 main section in which the individual chapters are organized:
Part 1 introduces the both central themes for the book, which are Queer Climate Intersectionality and the idea of a matchmaking program for Climate Activists, the latter which helps provide a narrative for the former. Part 1 bounces around these two areas of focus. In the middle of the mix, I introduce the villains in the narrative, those who try to repress or censor climate science as well as gay liberation. A lot of Part 1 is centered around the March for Science in the spring of 2017 as a protest against the same villains. In terms of the narrative, Part 1 is the setting which establishes the central theme necessary for the rest of the plot to take hold.
Part 1 Includes a Bonus Section that goes a bit further into depth on the science behind Climate Change and Associated Metaphors.
Part 2 is where the main plotline of the story begins. I describe a Climate Change-themed online dating site which launches in the fall of 2013. I, as the main character, describe the challenges I had to work through on the website as well as the secret trick I discovered to find someone who I matched with on it. My destined love partner and I connect right from the start. I listened intently to what he had to share because I was so intrigued and in suspense about his dating profiles. The only problem is that he lives far away, making it difficult for us to meet up while keeping our carbon footprint down. But that does not initially matter because he is so interesting to talk with. By the end of this section we are deep into a politically related conversation. Includes a Bonus Section on Corporate Personhood
Part 3 is a compilation of our many interesting discussions we had as we were getting to know each other exploring what we know in common. We begin by continuing to explore the climate-themed dating website which we met each other. That included bouncing ideas off each other on ideal first dates. Our discussion then flowed into profound insights on Queer Climate Intersectionality.
Includes one Bonus Chapter
PART 4: MY CRUSH WANTS TO IMPRESS ME WITH AN EPIC SPEECH ABOUT THE FABULOUS CLIMATE MODELING SUBCULTURE... AND SUCCEEDS !
After months of a long distance relationship, I really wanted to get a chance to visit in person the Guy who I liked in person. We have difficulty coming up with an occasion that we both agree upon and which he was comfortable with. But we strike a deal to meet in person. My destined love has long wanted to give a public presentation on his special topic of great knowledge, which was telling the history of the Climate Movement as if it were a struggle for gay liberation. I suspect he really wanted to impress me with it. He finally got a chance to give his presentation in front of his ideal audience the day before the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, which was something I wanted to travel to attend anyway. So I was able to attend as part of the audience.
In part 5, immediately after the speech in part 4, is the grand occasion where we both finally get to meet up in person after connecting online. We have what is essentially an extended first date immediately before, during and immediately after the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City. We took part in the historic march. But afterward a surprise adventure awaited me that caused a delightful change in my original plans to travel back home. I got to spend more time that I expected with him, which included a fun trip to a science-themed gay bar.
Part 6: CREATING A GUIDE ON HOW CLIMATE MODELS CAN BE MORE SUCCESSFUL IN FLIRTING, SEDUCTION AND ATTRACTING MAN-DATES - OUR GREAT PROJECT AFTER THE MARCH
Part 6 starts with the interesting discussions we had on the mystery of how to convince more people to accept the need to address climate change and join the movement. After this extended first date, we created a guidebook on Flirting and Seduction in this way to make happen a success for all at the upcoming Climate Summit in Paris. Includes a Bonus Section
Part 7 begins in the lead up to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. After an emotional rollercoaster of a lead-up discussion, it culminates in a sex scene which not coincidentally is Chapter 69. It is followed by the immediate aftermath of reaching a deal at the Paris Summit as we make our deal with each other. Our long-distance relationship grows literally closer when we move in with each other and begin to work on an ambitious project together. But later in Part 7 the plot goes fast forward and an unforeseen event disrupts our partnership, bringing us back full circle with where the plot started in part 1 with the March for Science. Includes a Bonus Section listed below
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Intro by Author
CHAPTER 1: Climate Activist Orgs Offering a Matchmaker Dating Program- If you giggled at the idea, then what makes it funny?
CHAPTER 2: What is Carbon Man-Dating? – The True Connections Beyond a Convenient Word Pun
CHAPTER 3: An Ecovillage Emerges Out of the Matrix= A Place Where I Can Belong
CHAPTER 4: The Greenhouse Gas Gatekeepers Guarding the Entrance to Love - How Climate Science Explains Desperation and Longing
CHAPTER 5: Who Says Climate is not a “Sexy” Enough Topic to activate enough people to become “engaged”? Debunking the Myth…
CHAPTER 6: Paradise - A Sweet Climate-Themed Love Poem
CHAPTER 7: Radical Bonding- The Sexiness of Organic Chemistry Defies the Unjust Authorities
CHAPTER 8: Help! The Control Alt-Delete Right is Censoring Climate Data and all I got are these Protest Signs at the March for Science!
CHAPTER 9: The Ironic Connections Between Climate Justice and Gay Liberation Explained in Terms of End Times Prophecy
CHAPTER 10: When Will Climate Hawks Have Our Stonewall Rebellion Moment? Ending the 'Reign of Error'
CHAPTER 11: Intersectionality- All Liberation Movements Unite to Overthrow Goliath
CHAPTER 12: How Building a Climate Action Movement is like Telling a Cute Guy that I am Interested in Bonding with Him
CHAPTER 13: Queer/ Climate Intersectionality- A Doomsday Scenario versus Love Actually Winning
CHAPTER 14: I Test My Hypothesis by trying to set up a fun Speed Dating Event, and the Conclusion is Take Neoliberal Economics out of Dating Life !
PART 1 BONUS SECTION: AN IN-DEPTH DIVE INTO CLIMATE CHANGE'S DATING PROFILE
BONUS CHAPTER A: If Climate Change had an Online Dating Profile, What would it say?
BONUS CHAPTER B: Why is Climate Change Having such a Hard Time Getting a ‘Man-Date’?
BONUS CHAPTER C: Why Climate is so Sensitive? Climate was Infatuated with Skateboarders Growing up and had a Secret Crush on one that did not turn out so well.
BONUS CHAPTER D: Could Climate Model Matchmakers Save the Day? Discovery of Mutual Attraction from a Climate Science Perspective
CHAPTER 15: Unleashing the Magic of Mutual Discovery! Featured Rave Reviews of the “Carbon Dating” Website
CHAPTER 16: Decoding the Movement Jargon and Inside Lingo on A Climate -Themed Dating Website
CHAPTER 17: Is there a ‘Floe’ Chart on how to Break the Ice with a Climate Model?
CHAPTER 18: A Global Warming-Themed Dating Site Self-Summary
A: Header/ Intro:
B: Values I Can Offer in a Relationship:
D: Work & Career:
E: Most Private Thing I am Willing to Admit:
F: Children & Family:
G: Musical Interests:
H: Please Message Me If:
CHAPTER 19: None of My Matches on the Carbon Dating Website Excited me. So, I Discovered a Different Dating Site that had Way Hotter Models
CHAPTER 20: The Secret to How I Finally Found my Match & What He Wrote on his Two Fascinatingly Enticing Dating Profiles
CHAPTER 21: My Destined Love and I Send Our First Messages to Each Other… and Discover We had both Met at Powershift !
CHAPTER 22: How to Connect 1) Singing in a Choir, 2) Fishing and 3) Gay Pride using the Highest Imaginable Concentration of Word Puns- The Fascinating Origin of the Dating Site 'Plenty of Fish'.
CHAPTER 23: How Sane Climate Policy is Like Safe and Consensual Sex (and “Vice” Versa!)
CHAPTER 24: The Great Beasts of the Social Darwinist Wilderness- An Epic Takedown of Corporate Deregulation
BONUS CHAPTER E: The Supreme Court Wizard of Oz Unleashes Citizens United Ruling Obscenity
BONUS CHAPTER F: Citizens United Was Supposed to be a Public Nudist Event, not a Private Orgy Party!
BONUS CHAPTER G: How Superhuman Corporation-Persons Have Sex and Replicate Themselves
BONUS CHAPTER H: Greasing the Skids for Oligarchic Dystopia & Endangering Our Right to Protest
CHAPTER 25: Our Hilarious Climate-Themed First Date Ideas
CHAPTER 26: My Ideal First Carbon ‘Man-Date’ – How Meeting Fun Guys for Coffee is a Climate Solution
CHAPTER 27: The Sexiest Soul Science Lesson You Will Ever Hear
CHAPTER 28: “Merger Equality” - How Corporate Persons Gaining Marriage Rights puts us on the Road to Biblical Ruin!
CHAPTER 29: Flowers may be a Romantic Gesture, but they are Geniuses at Word Puns
CHAPTER 30: Deconstructing Toxic Masculinity- Remediating an Environmental Hazard
CHAPTER 31: From Radical Fundamentalist to Fundamentally Radical- A Church Sermon on Queer- Planetary Pride Intersectionality
PART 4: MY CRUSH WANTS TO IMPRESS ME WITH AN EPIC SPEECH ABOUT THE FABULOUS CLIMATE MODELING SUBCULTURE... AND SUCCEEDS !
CHAPTER 32: We Resolve Our Biggest Relationship Challenge- Making Plans to meet in Person
CHAPTER 33: My Climate Hawk Partner Begins his Great Speech with his Coming Out Story
CHAPTER 34: How Climate Awareness Parallels Gay Acceptance- A Historical Commentary
CHAPTER 35: How The Predatory Delayers kept up from Dating and Forming Accords
CHAPTER 36: College Life for Climate Models During Bush's First Term- All Drudgery/ No Love
CHAPTER 37: The Predatory Delayer Gets Busted, Explodes in Outrage and gets Caught on Camera
CHAPTER 38: The Brief Glamor Years when Sustainability & Climate Models were a Fashionable Fad
CHAPTER 39: The Phony Climategate Scandal Rocks the Climate Modeling Subculture
CHAPTER 40: From the Darkness of Purity Culture to Sunrise in America- The Grand Finale of his Great Speech
CHAPTER 41: Sweet Caressing – We Finally Meet Each Other in Person!
CHAPTER 42: We Perform Magic Tricks for each other on our First in-person date
CHAPTER 43: Winning a Green New Deal- The Ultimate Kinky Fantasy for Climate Models
CHAPTER 44: We Hold a Spiritually-Woke Pizza Joke Telling Competition as we Walk Through New York City
CHAPTER 45: Intersectional Pride- The Queer Planet Section of the People’s Climate March
CHAPTER 46: Myco-Remediating Toxic Masculinity with Healthy, Regenerative Fun Guys
CHAPTER 47: Debunking the Common Negative Stereotypes about Climate Models
CHAPTER 48: A Dream Come True- I get to spend more time with my Climate Model Companion !
CHAPTER 49: Special Gay Bar for Science Geeks and the Climate Modeling Subculture - We Have Our Fun Night Out Together!
Part 6: CREATING A GUIDE ON HOW CLIMATE MODELS CAN BE MORE SUCCESSFUL IN FLIRTING, SEDUCTION AND ATTRACTING MAN-DATES - OUR GREAT PROJECT AFTER THE MARCH
CHAPTER 50: Tapping into the Wooden Skeptics- How Climate Conversations are like Making Maple Syrup
CHAPTER 51: Inverted Reality 3D Glasses- A Sarcastic Guide to Seeing the World Upside Down
CHAPTER 52: An ‘Inaction Figure” Toy Series- The "Dragons of Inaction"
CHAPTER 53: Red-Baiting Climate Deniers are the Real Stalinists
CHAPTER 54: My Climate Model Companion shows me his Erotica Collection – What Gets Him Excited? (Warning- Non-Pun-O-Graphic Content)
CHAPTER 55: Managing the Backfire Effect- Models Have Gaps that need to be Filled
CHAPTER 56: What are the Best Questions to ask to find out if Someone is your Climate Type?
CHAPTER 57: A Field Guide on How to Attract Dates from the Easiest of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication 6 "Americas.”
A: The Alarmed
B: The Concerned
C: The Cautious
D: The Disengaged
CHAPTER 58: Advice for Dating a Climate Doubtful- Go to a Green Tea Party!
CHAPTER 59: Mitigating the Disaster Impact of Dating a Climate Dismissive by using Beatles songs (and Rolling Stones too) !
CHAPTER 60: The Climate Contrarian Winter Olympics- Ski Racing Down the Slippery Slope to Intellectual and Moral Calamity
BONUS CHAPTER J: Choosing Between taking the Red Pill and the Blue Pill in the Matrix
BONUS CHAPTER K: The Top Two Levels of the Pyramid
BONUS CHAPTER L: The Third Level Down on the Pyramid
BONUS CHAPTER M: The 4th Level Down on the Pyramid
BONUS CHAPTER N: Below the Floating Apex of the Pyramid
BONUS CHAPTER O: Us Climate Models Formed a High School Debate Team, but why was Being Right not Enough?
BONUS CHAPTER P: The Transition from Caterpillar to Butterfly- Becoming who we are meant to be: Metaphors be With You !
CHAPTER 61: How Reaching a Deal at a Global Climate Summit is like Trying to find a Boyfriend by Attending a Party of Parties
CHAPTER 62: Global Warming and Impressive Endowment- Why Climate Hawks are not the Usual Type of Size Queens
A: Awkward Insecurities while Gayming
B: The Secrets of What Climate Models are Excited By
CHAPTER 63: A Novel Advertisement to Get More Guys to Care about Taking Action on Climate
CHAPTER 64: The Shower Scene- My Impressionable Moment When I Found Out I Was of the Climate Hawk Orientation-
CHAPTER 65: The Dark Secrets of Why Past Climate Summits Have Broken Down: The Big Shots Created a Gayme of Music Chairs
CHAPTER 66: Conspiracy Theories are being put out by the Conspirators themselves – and how we will Foil their World Dominance Plot
CHAPTER 67: “Greta-Tude” Autism Spectrum/ Climate Hawk Intersectionality
A: The Double Rainbow- Queer Spectrum Meets Autism Spectrum
B: A Visualization of “Greta-Tude”
CHAPTER 68: When our Tender Male Bonding Hopes got “Bully-Dozed” –Our Harsh Coming Out Experiences at An All-Boys Boarding School
CHAPTER 69: A Climate-Themed Gay Erotic ‘Fiction’ – Reaching the Climax of a Global Climate Summit
CHAPTER 70: Following Climax is Resolution- We Pledge to a Long-Term Accord Together
CHAPTER 71: “'Dessert'-if-ication" – Using Cake and Pie to Explain the Endangered Habitat for the Green Economy
CHAPTER 72: Explaining Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan in terms of Cake Recipes
CHAPTER 73: What did they Actually Mean by “Draining the Swamp”? Entropy Squared & The Decline into Disorder
CHAPTER 74: If Mitch McConnell Became a State Fair Food Vendor plus his Federalist Society Judges going to the Bowling Alley.
CHAPTER 75: We Saved Our Climate from the Tangerine Tyrant! We Protected Our Planet from Papaya Pinochet!
Chapter 76: Make Truth Matter Again, Make Earth Cool Again! (Slideshow)
CHAPTER 77: Epilogue / 96:
A: The Moral Tuning Fork
B: small r Capital E rEvolution
C: Cosmic Oblivion
D: My Final Legacy
Introduction from the author:
I have long felt something of a soul mission to lend a creative voice for an important & timely topic.
Out of that motivation, I read an earlier version of this work as a spoken word comedy performance for the Minnesota Fringe Festival in August of 2019. I was performing as one among an eclectic collection of 130 different shows. (Click here for description). I started creating and occasionally performing earlier versions of Climate-themed spoken word comedy 6 years before I won a lottery drawing to be in the 2019 MN Fringe Festival.
My paid work over the past several years has been as an organizer for local renewable power with a nonprofit called Community Power MN. It matches my deep calling for a clean, resilient energy future with the additional dimension of working on strategic campaigns that address climate in a way which can double as housing and economic justice.
My specific tasks are frequently changing and that is part of the fun. But a consistent objective behind my tasks throughout the years has been organizing community education events on our energy utility system and making invites to get turnout at these events. It is line of work which depends upon community members gaining a curiosity to learn. I then started pondering about lending some sort of entertainment value to the topics of Climate and Energy as a pathway to build interest among a greater proportion of the public.
As someone who has attended a lot of similar community events hosted by allied organizations, I have built a network of positive change-makers from around the Twin Cities. This has provided me a meaningful sense of belonging as well as a network of contacts to make invites to.
My hobby of creating climate comedy did not start as a deliberate decision for the calculated purpose of driving up attendance for events I was organizing for work. Its origins were much more spontaneous and unplanned. I was originally inspired by seeing Bill McKibben's “Do the Math Tour” in late 2012. His presentation humorously connected Keystone Beer with the Keystone XL pipeline. Out of that one single side joke, I had a burst of interconnected word puns and metaphors come to my mind in the following weeks. This quickly evolved into my original climate comedy performance, where I described the climate crisis as a “deadly cocktail” of XL sized Keystone Beer, diet Koch (referring to the Koch Brothers) and 1% Milk (referring to the richest 1% which Occupy Wall Street turned into a meme. By February of 2013, I handed a very early copy of my work to Bill McKibben when he town visited again. At that time, I had compiled an several books worth of my own non-fiction writing on topics where sustainability and the social sciences intersect. This written work of mine revolved around a central theme: Taking a pre-emptive strike against fossil fuel dependency rather than only acting in response to a crisis. I never got around to publishing a vast majority of this writing. It was a never-ending battle for me to keep content on global warming and peak oil updated and current given a continual stream of new reports and findings. In addition, the main points I had expressed in this non-fiction work had already been covered by additional authors.
With Carbon Man-Dating however, I fill a niche that is largely uncovered by preexisting authors. Plus, writing this comedy involves far fewer references and citations than my non-fiction work.
As Bill McKibben often points out from his own experience, simply authoring a book which catapults the truth out is rarely enough to lead to the changes our world needs to see. But it is nevertheless rewarding to author a book that helps inspire a dedicated following and attracts lots of readers. Rather than going the direct route of publishing my comedy as a book, I took the route of reading it in front of an audience with a projected slideshow as a visual cue for where the word puns and other punchlines are.
In the lead up to my Fringe Festival show, I had been grappling with the same familiar haunting question that I have in my paid work. What would it be like for me to promote an ecological-themed performance only to have almost no one actually show up to watch it? It would feed into this dark suspicion that this planet might not be saved after all and that we won’t be able to mobilize the public engagement and interest on the mass scale needed before it is “too late”.
By the time 2019 came around, it was year of the school climate strikes and that helped cancel out the sharpest pangs of that fatalistic speculation. The timing of my Fringe Festival show made me feel like I was part of something larger.
For decades prior, there was this long-standing Conventional Wisdom that climate was “not a sexy enough” topic to activate and engage anything more than a niche audience within a wider culture that is so preoccupied by entertainment with an ever shorter attention-span.
The realm of marketing and advertising uses sex appeal all the time because it is attention- grabbing and is also effective in directing the audience to focus on the message at hand rather than tuning it out as noise. A topic as urgent and timely as climate deserves all the attention it can get. It seems like the fate of the world depended upon making the topic of Climate sexy in some way.
Climate was supposedly too heady and geeky to be sexy. It was supposedly too much of a serious downer to fit in with the entertainment/ pop culture template. Climate has also been taken as too abstract for anyone who is not yet in this niche audience to feel a sense of personal relation toward.
But I was determined to disprove this conventional wisdom. So, I took upon the challenge of actually finding a way to make the topic of climate sexy, with entertainment value and with themes which make it personally relatable. I figured hitting this trifecta that would inoculate my public performance on climate from getting the lousy outcome which conventional wisdom would suggest.
Let me break down the elements here:
1: I lent entertainment value by putting a presentation about climate into the format of a pun-off competition, where I strategically arranged a series of word puns which strategically fit together like a crossword puzzle.
2: I also structured the narrative around grand metaphors between climate science/ policy concepts and romantic love relationships as a strategic way to make the topic more personally relatable. Making it a romantic relationship-themed comedy on climate justice thus provides a bridge to sexy.
3: Then I directed themes of sexuality by making the overall topic of climate intersectional with LGBTQ acceptance rather than arranging the metaphors involving romantic relationships to assume the more typical and familiar heteronormativity. This added a whole new dimension of depth and originality to the comedy. In fact, much of the actual humor is generated by highlighting the very surprising number of deep and profound parallels between the LGBTQ and Climate movements (Which I have detailed here: https://environomicaliconoclast.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-extensive-intersectionality-between.html) In addition to a series of strategically arranged word puns, I present many cases where the exact same set of words yields a double meaning which describes 2 different narratives from both the climate activist world and LGBTQ pride world.
Halfway through my 5 Fringe Festival performances, I decided to create a new opening script so I could introduce the audience to my style so it would come off as less jarring. I described it as being one of “radical pun-da-mental-ism!”, meaning putting puns alongside “da-mental”. The word puns each have a deeper underlying meaning where you have dig way down to uncover the root. And to bring the meaning of the phrase to a full circle, the word root just happens to be “the root” of the word radical. To work in a sexual double entrendre, this means ‘going deep’ in order to stimulate maximum arousal, where mental insightfulness makes the sexual references all the more rewarding.
To take a step back to square one, devising a comedy on a rather serious topic is quite a challenge in the first place. A comedian can’t simply look at the topic of climate for about 15 minutes and be able to come up with content that is actually funny and not cliché. It requires a dedicated effort to dive deep enough into climate in order to create comedy about it in a quality manner that brings light to the topic rather than makes light of it.
A few weeks before my Fringe Shows, I watched several prolific local comedians do performances on climate for a one-time event. Rather than someone who devotes a small fraction of one’s overall comedic content toward the topic of climate disruption, I focus like a laser on the topic. The vast majority of my comedic content being climate and energy related and that enables me to reach a level of depth.
Such an important topic deserves to be treated with high regard and I accomplish that by offering some depth. This means coming up with a version of humor which contains enough "Aha!" moments to belie a difficult subject matter. That stands in contrast to a more purely silly form of humor which would serve to cheapen the stark real-world implications of what we are facing. From the standpoint of adding depth, a comedy about climate becomes all the more deeply meaningful if it serves an additional dual purpose, which I do by making it intersectional with LQBTQ causes.
My intention behind working in the element of dating and love relationships goes beyond using rote sex appeal to get attention. It serves the additional benefit of having a humanizing effect on a topic usually associated with hard science. This is particularly valuable to do for climate science which psychologists specifically recognize as difficult for our brains to process and relate to on a personalized level. With this in mind, I arranged Carbon Man-Dating to “impact the reader/ audience on multiple levels of head and heart simultaneously-- a creative balance that is stimulating both mentally and affectionately” (as I had on my show description page) https://www.minnesotafringe.org/2019-show-information/carbon-man-dating-a-climate-themed-gay-romantic-comedy
Making liberal use of word puns and double entendres enabled yet another stylistic advantage. It allows the benefit of presenting sexual themes & references without directly using adult words or images. That way the content comes across in a beautiful, funny or ironic manner rather than a vulgar one that would detract from treating the topic of climate with dignified regard. The content can straddle the line of being for somewhat mature audiences without being overtly X-rated. With all the above harmonic balances in mind, I felt genuine excitement that I had perhaps the most brilliant concept for a Fringe Festival show.
There are a countless number of performance artists, including my estimates of least about 10% of the 2019 Fringe Festival performances, who put LBGTQ content into some type of comedy format. Doing a comedy performance about climate disruption is a quite a bit more unusual in comparison. I counted only one additional 2019 Fringe Festival show about Climate Change. But the concept of Climate Comedy is far from being unheard of given that a couple of researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder both study and compile climate comedy. Intentionally fusing climate justice with LGBTQ causes is another frontier which is rather rare to encounter in the same space though far from unheard of. One example I found is with the organization called Out 4 Sustainability. By the melding together of all three; climate, comedy, and LGBTQ content, I felt very giddy about coming up with a combination of genres that was totally unique and original.
Melding all three together is sort of like mixing Middle Eastern instruments and melodies with Techno beats while adding in electric guitar and drums to match the structure of a western Rock band. The concept may sound jarring to some. But the Album South Moroccan Motor Berber by the band Argan pulls it off.
The personal pride of being a pioneer into uncharted waters presents a bit of a double-edged sword however: Where is my ideal audience?
I was my possible audience as being on a spectrum with 2 extremes. I imagined one extreme being a constituency who frequents gay bars / nightclubs that would enjoy the sexual innuendo component but might interpret a heady and intellectual focus on climate as too nerdy and geeky to have appeal. At the other end of the spectrum were professionals who study climate and energy for a living and would get my science and policy references very well but would not value mixing it with humor or appreciate combining it with sex appeal.
I have thus far found my ideal audience among the more activist/ organizer types in the climate and energy fields as opposed to the more technocratic grasstops types. Even before the Fringe Festival I had been gradually building up a growing fan base from previous comedy performances. The audience I have built up is why my Fringe Festival show at least managed to break even and why I did notably better than the much-feared worst-case scenario outcome of hardly anyone showing up.
I made 2 particular efforts to reach out to LGBTQ spaces. I do remember getting hearty responses of laughter I got when I waved my “Love is Carbon Neutral, Let’s C how many O’s the 2 of us can make” sign when marching through the Twin Cities Pride Parade in June of 2019. My original plan was to have a local free LGBTQ publication publish the photo alongside a description of my Fringe Festival show. Its readership tends to overlap with those who would watch a Pride Parade. I figured there would be some who remember seeing my sign at the Pride Parade would be enticed enough by that one little taste to come see my show. But mention of my show only ended up in an online article rather than in printed magazine which was freely available on multiple street corners. So, my clever strategy to build up my audience size did not end up panning out in that way.
Lack of turnout to any given event can have multiple additional explanations. I later found out that a linear measure of audience size is far from the best factor in determining level of public interest and engagement. The bigger factor is the extent to which the audience who does offer the gift of showing up is able to follow along and enjoy.
What particularly struck me was reading one review of my show from someone who commended my ability to do the shock-and-awe of word puns but was not being able to follow along with what I was speaking about in my performance, despite my visual cues.
I found it rather disturbing that the common lingo among climate activism is not even close to universal common knowledge given the weighty seriousness of what we are facing and given the extent to which knowledge is power. It is haunting for me to think that anyone could have too little interest in the existential topic of climate to learn the terminology on their own or in peer groups.
I acted upon a mission to educate, enlighten and mobilize the necessary public interest in this very timely topic by adding entertainment value and making it emotionally relatable. But I admit there is one weakness that I struggle to overcome. Doing a comedy format gives me limited ability to explain the climate science policy and activism concepts to audience members less familiar with them while also being able to maintain a rhythm that does not lose the attention of the rest of the audience. It throws off the rhythm of the comedy to explain and build familiarization with the terminology. For that purpose, I used a slideshow to illustrate the words alongside supporting images to the audience.
The core narrative I chose as the intro to my Fringe Festival show description was “Climate activist groups form an online dating program to help their LGBTQ organizers build up a love life”. At first, this core narrative may sound like mere tongue-in-cheek comedy fodder. But my subconscious motivation was to suggest that this would actually a good idea to make happen in real life. It is no random accident that I called for Climate Justice organizations to all join together to offer a program to help climate activists and organizers (LGBTQ in particular) who are interested in dating others with shared interests.
What I can say is that this creative work of incorporating humor has been a therapeutic way for me to process a wide array of emotions both about the climate crisis as well as the challenges of being somewhere on both the LGBTQ and autism spectrums. Creating this content helped unite these 3 social circles of my life that often feel so fragmented and don’t often talk with each other.
Could my performance inspire curiosity to learn or to set foot in climate activist community spaces? Will the content be effective in building a new community where the Climate Justice & LGBTQ rights movements can be of mutual benefit to each other?
Back in the year 2011, something noteworthy happened in my state legislature. Many of the same legislators who would eventually vote against resolutions stating that climate change is real/ human caused happened to be largely the same ones who voted to put an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 2012.
The two movements were brought into an informal alliance with each other mainly because both just happened to share common enemies. But what would it feel like for both movements to unite around something affirmative?
A newfound wisdom and a newfound strategy of talking about love and values is how we mobilized to defeat the anti-gay constitutional Amendment on Nov 6th, 2012. In that way love had won or more accurately, love would at the very least not be disallowed.
It may have been unthinkable just one year before it happened. But love became formally allowed in State Law just several months later, on May 14th, 2013 and went into effect Aug 1st.
Witnessing that rapid shift in social values caught the attention of organizers in the Climate Movement. We started to ask if the same love and values-based strategy that worked for the Vote No campaign could also work for building up the Climate movement.
Many years later, some of the movers and shakers from the Vote No Campaign showed up for climate in an expression of intersectional pride by forming an organization called Ullu.