Called 'Wasteful Spending' By John McCain, Puppeteer Paul Zaloom Returns Fire With Satire

Sep 7, 2015

This spring Senator John McCain cited a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Sandglass Theater in Putney as an example of wasteful government spending.

McCain took the NEA to task for funding Sandglass’ puppet festival. He also singled out one of the scheduled performers, Paul Zaloom. Sandglass’ Puppets in the Green Mountains festival kicks off on Thursday. And Zaloom will be there to fire back at McCain.

Paul Zaloom has had a long association with Bread and Puppet Theater. His solo shows featuring goofy shtick and political satire have drawn a devoted following.

Sen. McCain may not be aware that Zaloom has won four NEA fellowships, as well as a Guggenheim and an Obie Award. In the early ‘90s Zaloom moved to L.A. and starred as a wacky scientist in the kids' TV show Beakman’s World. At his summer camp on Lake Woodbury he reflected on McCain’s attack on the NEA grant to Sandglass.

“They figure puppets, who’s going to back spending money on stupid kiddy stuff? They leave out the part about how much business is generated by art events,” Zaloom said. “A lot of money, motels, restaurants, all kinds of stuff. So, it’s really a business stimulus that happens. But that’s just a little too sophisticated for the genius McCain.”

Zaloom will perform his latest solo show at the Puppets in the Green Mountains festival later this week. Entitled "White Like Me," it’s about white Americans being, well, entitled.

"They figure puppets — who's going to back spending money on stupid kiddy stuff? They leave out the part about how much business is generated by art events... But that's just a little too sophisticated for the genius McCain." Paul Zaloom, performer

In his performance, Zaloom booms out: “Will White Man listen to the Lord and finally chill-lax or will he dig in, wig out and melt down? Well, we’ll find out in the year of our Lord 2042, now won’t we?”

In an interview, Zaloom explains that white people will be a minority in the United States in 2042. “One of the crucial points in our show is the anxiety,” he says. “And I think there is a lot of anxiety on the part of us honkies, that we’re going to be a minority. Now, we already are in California. So, it’s coming my fellow Caucasians!”

Zaloom has slipped a new character into "White Like Me" — Sen. John McCain. Playing off current events has long been a trademark of Zaloom’s work.

He got quite a following in Mexico, where he recently performed and riffed on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The college students in Guadalajara, Mexico, booed when Zaloom projected a slide of Trump on a giant video screen. The Republican presidential candidate also has a cameo in Zaloom’s latest puppet show this Friday and Saturday in Brattleboro.