Little did actor/writer/journalist Rob Salerno know that what started out as a joke back in 2008 to see who could come up with the most outrageous title for a show would actually come to be. Based on his experience covering the snap federal election that year, the self-described “shocking” title took root and thus Salerno’s Fucking Stephen Harper was born. Making his way through Canada’s Fringe circuit, Salerno brings his play to Vancouver as part of the 2010 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
Despite what some might consider a pretty provocative title, Salerno isn’t all that apologetic about the choice.
“The title started as a joke, and certainly, you have to do something to make your show stand out against the hundred-plus other shows on the Fringe circuit,” admitted Salerno. “But as you’ll see from the show itself, I argue that Fucking Stephen Harper is an actual, viable, political stance and one that’s necessary under a government that’s doing it’s best to fuck us.”
For Salerno though, it is more than just creating entertainment as he is also convinced it’s important to have entertainment that engages with the political world. “We really don’t have anyone doing that in Canada. At least not anyone funny.”
Salerno’s first solo show, doing a one-man piece on the Fringe circuit does have its practical implications.
“Certainly the pay is better and that’s a consideration on the Fringe circuit as touring can get really expensive and there’s very little support available for Fringe artists,” said Salerno. “But I do really love writing and performing in full plays. I think what’s important to me is storytelling, and this story wouldn’t have been served by having multiple performers.”
But beyond those practicalities, for Salerno the Fringe is also what he calls the “most viable model for delivering art for artists who are not supported by government grants and sponsors”.
“I love the free-wheeling nature of the Fringe. I can do a show that’s part stand-up, part storytelling, part political rant, part lecture/rally/demonstration,” he explained. “Audiences are virtually built-in and very supportive. Plus, getting the opportunity to travel the country while earning a living and doing what I love to do is great.”
Having now taken Fucking Stephen Harper to Fringe festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton, Salerno is pleased with the reactions that continue to build for his show including a “Best of the Fest” nod in Winnipeg.
As for Stephen Harper actually seeing the show, Salerno doesn’t think he has yet, although he thought it quite funny that while doing some postering for his Edmonton Fringe appearance, NDP MP Linda Duncan asked him for a Fucking Stephen Harper poster for her office and said she’d try to make it to the show.
Besides, if Harper does see the show, Salerno is sure his reaction would be to say how “the government is extremely disappointed that tax-payer supported festivals are putting on a show that criticises our Dear Leader.”
Ultimately Salerno’s message is a relatively simple one: “pay attention to politics and to our rights. Whether you’re gay or straight, we’re all a little bit queer, and this government has been doing its level best to attack sexuality in all its forms. Don’t let your rights and your country slip away because you’re not really paying attention.”
As for the size of Harper’s balls? Salerno isn’t saying. “That’d spoil the show.”
Fucking Stephen Harper
Performance Works, 1218 Cartright Street, Granville Island
Friday, Sept 10, 11:00pm
Saturday, Sept 11, 4:55pm
Sunday, Sept 12, 12:00 Noon
Monday, Sept 13, 6:45pm
Thursday, Sept 16, 8:30pm
Saturday, Sept 18, 7:35pm
Rob Salerno, a regular contributor to Xtra and Xtra West, was assigned to interview the leaders of the federal political parties in advance of the 2008 election. But in the course of securing an interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Salerno was arrested for sexually assaulting the PM. Now on tour promoting his best selling memoir of the incident – Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy – you can finally come hear his side of the story.