The off-the-wall humor (one of the super voters orders up an “OutKast reunion”) is a hallmark of Kendall’s material, which Atlantans have witnessed in his many performances as part of Dad’s Garage Theater and then with the Village Theatre. He came to national attention with his 2014 one-man show “The Magic Negro and Other Blackity Blackness,” which was first performed at Dad’s Garage, then produced by the Alliance Theatre in 2017, and followed by a national tour.
Now Kendall and filmmaker Bill Worley are creating short videos that use humor to get out the vote.
On Dec. 15, “Superpowers” was released on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Three other short comic skits followed. The latest, “What’s YOUR Voting Plan?” with Kendall hollering encouragement to voters from the back of a pickup truck, launched on Dec. 28. In two weeks, the videos have generated a half-million views and several million impressions, promoting the idea that voting can be entertaining.
“We knew people were going to be inundated with these reminders to vote, so we wanted to make it seem as funny as possible but also as important as possible,” said Kendall, 34.
Worley also knew that Georgians would be swimming in political attack ads, which he said can actually depress voter participation.
His videos, he hopes, can serve as an antidote to that negative soup. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the reaction to the ‘Superpowers’ video in particular,” said Worley, 38. “People are seeing it as a joyful celebration of the power that we have as Georgians.”
Another video, called “U up?” produced with the Out of Hand Theatre, turns a discussion about voting plans into a late-night sexting exchange between boyfriend and girlfriend.
With a seductive slow jam playing in the background, Atlanta actress Jamila Porter taps out on her phone, “You know, I like to do it by myself.”
“Nice,” Kendall texts back. “I do it in public.”
The voiceover at the end tells us “Voting is very sexy and sexual. Especially when you do it with friends.”
We are all swamped with election messages. Worley said he’s seen a dozen different hangers left on his front doorknob, urging him to the polls. In the Georgia runoff, spending on television ads alone is likely to top $500 million. It could make a voter want to dig a hole and hide until Jan. 6.
Kendall and Worley hope that a spoonful of amusement will help keep voters positive.
The sketches avoid naming any candidates, though the sympathies of the filmmakers may be evident. “We lean toward the non-partisan to broaden the audience,” said Worley.
And they’ve gained some national attention. Actor/activist Mark Ruffalo retweeted one of their posts.
They are able to work on a shoestring, with the help of their actor/improv friends, including Will Hayes, Rickey Boynton, Kirsten King and Julia Jones.
But there’s not a lot of money for craft services, outside of coffee and doughnuts. Worley tells his volunteers to come to the set with a full stomach. “You need the right crew to be able to put up with that.”
For Kendall, the videos have provided a creative outlet in a year of dark theaters. “Performing used to be something I would do every single night in front of people,” Kendall said. “Not getting to do that is very different.”
So far it seems the effort to put a glow on voting have been successful. “If making people laugh about it keeps it in their minds,” said Worley, “we’ll keep doing it.”