It starts with a jazzy beat, followed by student-film quality titles. And then there’s a stubbly guy in street clothes standing next to a door or bookcase talking about politics.
“The polls are just flying in, folks,” shouts Adam Green, holding graphs up to the camera. “This one says that among 40-year-old women with pulmonary edema, Obama’s beating Clinton 45-35 … This one says that among Eskimo paleontologists Romney’s edging out Giuliani 31 to 29 … And in a final poll at Tom Tancredo’s house, Tancredo comes in second.”
Over the course of his three-minute “Lunchbox” videos on the blog Room 8 (he calls the medium “vlogging”), Green is likely to have conversations with himself in various personae, act out scenarios with toy action figures, or pretend to interview a politician who “responds” in CNN clips. But while the production value may be amateur, the Harvard graduate’s political satire has the rare quality of being both well informed and hilarious.
“Trouble is brewing in the first big showdown between the Democratic Congress and the White House,” he announced last month, “as the firing of federal prosecutors finally came to a head in the Senate, and Bush complained about not being invited to some cool partisan fishing trip.”
In under a year, “Lunchbox” has generated considerable buzz in the political world. Originating most Fridays on Room 8 (www.r8ny.com) — a blogosphere answer to City Hall’s Room 9 press room — and on Capitol Hill Broadcasting, links appear on other blogs, like the New York Observer’s “Politicker.”
But Green, 30, is no aspiring Jon Stewart. His shtick may come off like a comic trying to finish his set before the next act, but Green is a full-time dramatic actor specializing, he says, in “young Jewish roles.” Trained at New York University’s graduate school, he appeared most recently Off-Broadway opposite Daniel J. Travanti in “The Last Word.” He’s also appeared in productions of Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” and in “Awake and Sing.”
“Lunchbox” was a natural outgrowth of Room 8, a forum for ruminating about local politics. Its founders, Ben Smith and Gur Tsabar, are longtime friends of Green. Passionate about civic affairs, Green found that “vlogging” was a good way to vent his spleen.
“At some points I’m at the threshold of shaking with rage or shaking with laughter,” he says in an interview. “It’s fun and it’s a rush of creative content.”
Last year, Room 8 received a $35,000 grant from the Sunlight Foundation to increase awareness of the New York congressional delegation and its work; part of it subsidized “Lunchbox.”
Smith, a blogger for the Politico Web site and who met Green when they were students at The Trinity School on the Upper West Side, says “Lunchbox” has gained national notice. “It seems to have a very mixed, devoted following among journalists, New York political junkies and other similarly-minded people around the country,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anybody else who knows and understands New York politics that well and is also able to be that funny about it.”
Councilman David Yassky, a Brooklyn Democrat who is the only guest ever to appear on “Lunchbox,” says Green’s “commentary is as astute as many more-serious political commentators.”
Green bashes Democrats and Republicans alike, but admits his liberal bias: “I grew up in New York City, and I’m a Jew who went to Harvard. My resume speaks for itself.”
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He grew up in a Reform household on the Upper East Side, the son of an IBM instructor and a marketing executive, and is still affiliated with Manhattan’s Temple Shaaray Tefilah though he lives in Brooklyn. His indignation on behalf of the tribe was apparent when he recently took on GOP White House hopeful Tommy Thompson for saying that getting rich was a Jewish tradition. “That is indeed our crowning point as a religion: business savvy,” Green quipped. For good measure, he joked that at a later NAACP conference, Thompson declared “I threw down my first triple-double playing hoops, which is part of the black tradition and I embrace it.”
Waiting for his next acting gig, Green lives in Fort Greene with his girlfriend, actress Miriam Silverman. As the presidential race heats up, he hopes to post more often. This is, after all, America’s first YouTube election, where campaigns are launched online and gaffes — like former Virginia Sen. George Allen’s infamous “macaca” speech — quickly become “viral video.”
“Every word and action of politicians are under a microscope now,” says Green. “As we saw with George Allen, there’s a much slimmer chance that a misstep will go unnoticed.”
Especially on “Lunchbox.”