Michael Moore’s “The Terms Of My Surrender” At the Belasco Theatre, Saturday, August 12th, 2017, Reviewed
Michael Moore’s best moment at the 2pm presentation of his one man show “The Terms Of My Surrender” was neither amusing nor politically astute, and it was entirely improvised. As part of the show he had a Canadian Versus USA contest as to who knew most about the other’s country, when he asked the American what her education was, she said she had a PHD from Nebraska State. Michael dismissed her with a joking “not smart enough” and she became very upset. Michael apologized profusely, hugged her, and allowed her to participate. You can’t fake that compassion, you either have it or you don’t, and as far as telling moments, it was insightful and, for me at least, made me a difference. He won my trust, something he never had before.
I went to see the popular extremely liberal documentarian behind “Roger And Me”‘s theatrical debut “The Terms Of My Surrender” at the Belasco, with nearly the exact same impetus that had me going to Ted Nugent last Tuesday: I wanted to see what he had to say and let me boil it down for you: Michael told us to get involved. But getting there had moments of extreme clarity and overwhelming intelligence mixed with plenty of the self-evident and the preaching to the choir. I nearly left after the first twenty minutes, a terrible regurgitation of the headlines, something he must update daily and therefore is semi-improvised. This is not Moore’s forte though he has no way round it, it takes him time to marshall and transmogrify the stage with his thoughts, he isn’t a comedian, he actually isn’t particularly great at improvising, he thinks. Once he settled down into his set pieces he was terrific. A story of how the young Moore was invited to the Young Governor’s conference in Washington DC, ,the other side of the world for a teenager from Flint, Michigan, won the award by writing a lecture on Abraham Lincoln was glorious. The award was presented by the The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks American fraternal order, and Moore refused it because the Elks still discriminated about blacks, and within a year had been instrumental in changing their laws: it taught Moore (whose father had refused to join the Order over the “Caucasians Only” provision) an invaluable lesson on how democracy works.
Michael had two more stories, one in which he got his Principal and Assistant Principal fired by being elected to the Board Of Education, and another in which he protested Reagan’s visit to Bitburg in 1984 (remember the Ramones “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” -terrific lead by one Joey Ramone). Just as fun was a story of how Simon And Schuster refused to release his book “Stupid White Men” (meant to be published September 12th, 2001) until one librarian took up his cause, it ended up going through 59 editions. Another proof of the importance of just one person’s actions.
If you’ve ever tried standing in front of an audience for nearly two hours just talking, even if they want to hear what you have to say, it isn’t easy. And Moore isn’t a natural, he looks like a schlub and he can’t modulate his voice well enough, he keeps on going up an octave, but he is a clever man, hell, he predicted Trump’s win while I was still saying “not a chance”. AND DIDN’T EVEN MENTION HIS PREDICTION DURING THE SHOW. It would have been the first words out of my mouth, I haven’t shut up about raving over Chance The Rapper two years before he hit YET. And while Moore really has nothing much to add to the Trump conversation (and I am not sure I agree about the electoral college being evil -every State deserves a say in the election, you can’t have California and New York choosing every President), we take those truths to be self-evident by now. He is better with two Hillary Clinton hits, one calling her out for not visiting Wisconsin, and another, which not quite a hit, was very funny: there was an assassination attempt on his life (that’s not the funny part), and when the police went to the assassins home, Michael’s name was first on a hitlist before Janet Reno, Hillary and Rosie O’Donnell. ‘WHY WAS MY NAME ON THE SAME LIST AS THREE LESBIANS?” he exclaimed.
While at these prices you might have hoped for more special effects than a sliding armchair, Michael both sings and dances and he comes across much better than he does on television. It’s fun, the show went by faster than “Groundhog Day”.The final story, about how the Governor of his home state helped to poison his home town, Flint, a story everybody knows but never told with such outrage before justified the entire show, it made me furious all over again. Now, if Moore would only run for President…