10:57am PT by Chris Gardner
Inside the Mueller Report Live Reading Starring Larry David, Billy Porter and Debra Messing as Donald Trump
Fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time, a few audience members in the upper deck of Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre started clapping. It took a few moments for the fever to catch on but, eventually, it did and a smattering of the 1,000 or so guests were clapping to a beat, the type to show that the audience was ready for the show to begin.
Three minutes later, Billy Porter stepped out on to the stage to kick off the event, You Can’t Make This Sh*t Up: Selected Readings From the Mueller Report. Dressed in all black, the newly minted Emmy winner paused the proceedings momentarily for a moment of silence to pay tribute to veteran politician and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings, who died Oct. 17. Porter, a veteran of the stage who won a Tony in 2013, then performed “America the Beautiful.”
Comedian and political commentator Stephanie Miller was next to the stage and she wasted no time in referencing the man who really inspired the entire evening: President Donald Trump. “I know what you’re wondering,” Miller posited. “What has that orange motherfucker done just from the time I was walking 'til I got out here.”
But the subject of the evening was not the day’s latest breaking news, rather it was the report issued by Robert Mueller, former special counsel for the Department of Justice and former director of the FBI. Mueller was appointed to investigate alleged Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election that won Trump his seat in the Oval Office. His report, issued in April, may seem like ancient history considering the barrage of headlines out of Washington, D.C., and the more pressing impeachment inquiry, and Miller mentioned that, too.
“Doesn’t it feel almost nostalgic and old-timey now? It’s like the old-timey treason before the new treason and the new election interference and before he was gonna fucking buy Greenland and nuke hurricanes,” Miller quipped before getting serious. “I know why we’re all here because when Barbara Boxer tells you to do something in California you just fucking do it.”
Boxer then made her way to the stage, greeted by a standing ovation. The retired California senator was one of the driving forces behind the event, which served as a fundraiser for her PAC for a Change and its work to defend the Democratic house majority, elect a Democratic majority in the Senate and defeat Trump in 2020. Boxer partnered on the event with veteran entertainment executive Lindy DeKoven, writer Janis Hirsch, producer Suzi Dietz and Steve Saporito, director Sheryl Kaller and executive producer Marta Kauffman.
Based on the crowd size seated inside the Saban, Boxer said they were sending a strong message to Trump, “his puppets” and his “acting” chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
And that message, per Boxer, was this: “No, we will not get over it Mick. Not until you are all out of power. You see, Mick, we don’t get over lies every day, and we don’t get over foreign aid quid pro quos or campaign law violations, such as using your official position to dig up dirt on an opponent or abandoning allies who died for us. We won’t get over that. Another thing we won’t get over, there are good people on the side of the white supremacist’s fence. No, there are not. We won’t get over that either. We won’t get over trying to make the right to choose a crime. We won’t get over that or abusing and traumatizing children and their families at our border. We won’t get over that or stomping progress on LGBTQ rights. We won’t get over that or ignoring climate change and deadly gun violence and kissing up to tyrants or suppressing our votes or on and on and on. We will not get over all of that. We will fight all of that and we will win.”
After getting that message off her chest, she said, Boxer was ready to get the Hirsch-penned show underway. The curtain went up revealing 16 performers: Porter, Larry David, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Laraine Newman, Paul Reiser, Maz Jobrani, Tim Bagley, EJ Johnson, Dan Bucatinsky, Poppy Montgomery, Danny Woodburn, Tony Goldwyn, Jonah Platt, John Fugelsang, Ernie Hudson and Sharon Osborne. Then out walked Debra Messing who was taking on the role of Trump for the night’s festivities.
Messing made her entrance reading a series of tweets Donald Trump posted about her during their recent online feud. “Bad ‘actress’ Debra The Mess Messing is in hot water,” Messing stated, making her way toward center stage while wearing a baggy suit with her hair styled in a very Trumpian way as an awkward comb-over. “I have not forgotten that when it was announced that I was going to do The Apprentice, and when it then became a big hit, helping NBC’s failed lineup greatly, Debra Messing came up to me at an upfront and profusely thanked me, even calling me ‘sir.’ How times have changed!”
Here’s opening of @BarbaraBoxer presented live reading of Mueller Report, “You Can’t Make This Sh*t Up,” which begins with @DebraMessing playing Trump and reciting his tweets about her from September during online feud. pic.twitter.com/nRq5SqjJ0z— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 22, 2019
"All right, sit down sweetie,” directed David, who handled the role of Narrator. “Hello! And welcome to Selected Readings From the Mueller Report, You Can’t Make This Shit Up. Think of it as Impeachment: The Origin Story. Every word you will hear is quoted directly from the report unlike our attorney general, I’m not making any of this up because you can’t make it up!”
Then David turned his attention to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, played by Mitchell, and asked him what he had “to say about this?” Mitchell: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 Presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
“All right, thank you everybody, that’s our show,” quipped David. “Goodnight!”
But, of course, that was not the end and the show would continue for the next 50 minutes or so with a total of 30 speaking parts for the actors, most of whom played multiple parts. Messing generated plenty of laughs for her Trump performance (even cracking David up several times); Montgomery did the same by playing Julian Assange and Hope Hicks; Woodburn had the audience cracking up as Donald Trump Jr. during an ongoing gag about his wildlife hunting; and Johnson played well as an over-the-top Jared Kushner. All the words spoken by the actors were taken “verbatim from the report unless I say it,” David reminded the crowd, save for Porter’s portion, which was presented in the same way as his Emmy-winning work on Pose as the character Pray Tell.
“Category is…” Porter announced before the beginning of a new section. Those breaks included topics like hacking, the Republican National Convention, a vacation in the Seychelles, disinformation, Trump Tower Moscow, among others. The selected readings also covered major news developments and/or scandal figures including Wikileaks, Assange, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and former attorney general Jeff Sessions.
The night’s most powerful moment came during the final few minutes when the performers joined in standing one by one as they presented the “10 acts of obstruction of justice,” per David's narrator, as cited in Mueller’s report with each of those instances followed by a Trump supporter denying the claim on a TV clip, playing overhead, often uttering the oft-used phrase “no collusion, no obstruction.”
Mueller Report life reading ends with Larry David presenting 10 acts of potential obstruction of justice outlined in the April report followed by readings of each instance from the performers. pic.twitter.com/6WzlWhCMTP— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 22, 2019
Then, with each of the 17 performers standing, Porter made his way to the front of the stage to close the show by quoting former First Lady Michelle Obama, his “favorite of all time.” But rather than just repeat her “when they go low, we go high” phrase from the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Porter opted to switch it up and present a new definition of the latter part.
“I believe in that statement; however, it’s time we the people redefine what going high means. I stand before you today as a representative of what that new high looks like. There’s no more time to be terrified. There’s no more time to swirl in disbelief. There’s no more time to be disengaged. There’s no more time not to vote. There’s no more time. There’s no more time. We must continue to speak truth to power and call out corruption. We must continue to ask questions — tough ones, uncomfortable ones — and challenge this new world order. We must continue to support great leaders like Barbara Boxer. Our resistance is personal. Our resistance is collective. As we forgive those who trespass against us, we will fight back with love. The toughest love you’ve ever seen. There’s no more time. So, get out there and get to the polls. Our democracy depends on it.”
.@theebillyporter closes Mueller Report reading by quoting @MichelleObama but redefines “when they go low, we go high.”— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 22, 2019
“I stand before you today as a rep of what that new high looks like. There’s no more time to be terrified. There’s no more time to swirl in disbelief.” pic.twitter.com/zwiFLCijRC
With her hair pulled over her head comb-over-style, Debra Messing impersonates Donald Trump and gets lots of laughs all night. The audience also loved Poppy Montgomery’s Hope Hicks impression. pic.twitter.com/rdMh2G06hl— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) October 22, 2019