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Meet the comedians trolling the US presidential campaign

us-presidential-election Updated: Nov 05, 2016 16:27 IST
AFP
AFP
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US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, North Carolina. (AFP)

One day in mid-March, Fox News ran a story about a pair of Donald Trump supporters sporting Nazi-style armbands emblazoned with their candidate’s last initial.

“Armbands are a fairly new phenomenon in American presidential politics. And so is Donald Trump,” the station’s reporter commented darkly, noting that the property tycoon’s supporters were “fed up and cynical and angry”.

It would have been a nice scoop, except that it emerged that the pair were actually Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, otherwise known as New York guerrilla comedy duo “The Good Liars”.

Read | Trump, Clinton duel as presidential race tightens; Obama says this isn’t a joke

For months, they have been touring the country pranking not just news reporters but candidates on both sides of the aisle and their entourages for “Undecided: The Movie”, which is now available on Netflix.

The mockumentary, which mixes real-life footage from the stump and scripted material, sees the comedians playing ambivalent voters deciding who to back for president.

Half “Borat” and half “Veep”, the 85-minute film opens at a gun range in Iowa with Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum and goes through to the Grand Old Party’s national convention in Cleveland.

In one memorable scene, Stiefler appears on C-SPAN trying to exorcise a demon from Ted Cruz, screaming, “Look in the mirror and let the evil spirit leave!”

In another, he stands up at a Rubio rally and shouts: “Marco Rubio stole my girlfriend!”

Stiefler and Selvig get up close and personal with Trump, booing the candidate for being “boring” before getting kicked out of his rally.

‘Good people’

Perhaps the most brazen stunt of all comes near the end of the movie when they travelled to California in May, stripping off their shirts near the front of a Hillary Clinton rally as she addresses the crowd.

Unfazed, she defies the wishes of police and Secret Service personnel, taking a selfie with the duo and insisting they can remain shirtless as long as they don’t take anything else off.

“It was actually pretty funny, probably like her most human moment, at least in months,” Selvig tells AFP.

“They decided to use that interaction in a campaign ad, so it was a really bizarre moment where we’re playing undecided voters and then we’re being used in a real campaign to sway undecided voters.”

Selvig believes Rubio dealt best with being trolled, and says he was genuinely surprised by Trump’s reaction.

“The look on his face is almost like he’s hurt. It’s the only time during the election where somebody hurt him, and calling him boring is probably the worst insult you could say to him,” the comedian tells AFP.

Read | Why 2016 could end up as the year when the elections lied

Election Day is almost here, but the pair, who are hoping for a Clinton victory, don’t plan to retire any time soon.

“We actually went to a Mike Pence rally about a month ago when the film was already finished and did a stunt there,” Stiefler says.

“That was probably the most physical things got. People were yanking at us, shoving and pushing and grabbing. One of the cameramen had their camera taken away and I got hit with it.”

Both Stiefler and Selvig, who would often arrive in character at rallies hours before they were due to start, say meeting campaigners gave them hope for humanity, particularly in the United States.

“I really don’t think we’re all that different. There’s some ignorance in the country but as a whole, we’re filled with good people,” says Selvig.

“It was kind of a positive feeling I got travelling the country and talking to all these people.”

For the complete coverage of the US presidential election, click here.