Theater critics trash Michael Moore's one man show - because even they're sick of his tedious schtick

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Published by: Robert Laurie on Friday August 11th, 2017

Even the people who agree with him the most...

What can you say about shlubby millionaire Michael Moore that hasn't been said before? After listing his northern Michigan home (which he once told me he didn’t recognize in a photo) for a cool $5 million, he's been forced to divide his time among his other 8 homes - including an equally lavish multi-unit Manhattan condo. He is, without question, an exceptionally hypocritical member of the one-percent he claims to despise.

Nevertheless, he likes to maintain his fraudulent "dumpy everyman" act.  It seems he thinks you're stupid enough to keep buying into the idea that he's just a normal guy with a camera. So, he puts on his battered ball cap and castigates capitalists in movies, talking-head news interviews and, most recently, a one-man Broadway show called "The Terms of My Surrender."

It premiered last night, and "Show" may be the wrong word. "Show" implies entertainment. If the reviews are to be believed, there's precious little of that to be found in Moore's latest endeavor. In fact, it sounds like even the notoriously left-leaning theater world has grown weary of Moore’s one-note gimmick. 

From the New York Times:

"you don’t have to disagree with Mr. Moore’s politics to find that his shtick has become disagreeable with age. “The Terms of My Surrender,” which opened on Thursday at the Belasco, is a bit like being stuck at Thanksgiving dinner with a garrulous, self-regarding, time-sucking uncle. Gotta love him — but maybe let’s turn on the television.

“I’m not coming to this stage every night to conduct a political rally,” Mr. Moore told The New York Times in July. “This is not a kumbaya piece of theater.”

That’s true: “The Terms of My Surrender” is not organized well enough to be either of those things. Certainly it falls short of offering seriously useful ideas about how individuals can make a difference — as Mr. Moore, drawing on his own biography, insists they can. Details are scant. Run for school board, he recommends. Be Rosa Parks. Download, an app that promises to “turn your passive participation into active resistance.”

 ...I actively resisted plenty of material that might otherwise be amenable to me politically. Some of it took the form of hokey set pieces that fizzled, such as a demonstration of what the T.S.A. now prohibits passengers from taking onboard a plane: hedge clippers, dynamite, Muslims. Particularly feeble (and sour) was a game show involving audience members selected to prove Mr. Moore’s thesis that the “dumbest Canadian” is more knowledgeable about the world than the “smartest American.” Almost any savvy talk show host does this kind of material much better.

Ouch.  That's what you call "brutal." Apparently Moore is no Spalding Gray.

...But the New York Times is famously snarky and loves to twist the knife into the back of a mediocre show.  Once upon a time, before it existed almost exclusively to peddle Democrat talking points, that was practically its raison d'être. So perhaps this is just a one-off. Surely, other left-leaning reviewers will be kinder.

Enter Charles McNulty at the LA Times:

The show consists of a series of anecdotes in which an everyday person abused by the system overcomes extraordinary odds to make a difference. Funny enough, the hero of each of these episodes turns out to be Moore himself.

...Every story ends in the glorification of Michael Moore. The lesson he wants us to take home is a noble one: Innocent idealism can only prevail if it holds to what is true and doesn’t succumb to despair. But these plucky narratives, largely recycled from his writings and talks, have the monotonous ring of an infomercial for his brand.

...I have no political beef with Moore. I have long admired the way he has fought on behalf of working people. But I found myself cringing at the self-congratulatory applause that would break out when he would utter one of his pieties. And I lost patience with the way he seemed to want both sympathy for being a victim of the right and adulation for being the champion of all mankind.

Oh? Then you've lost patience with the entire liberal movement - because that's just about the best summation of its modus operandi that I've ever heard.

How about the Daily Beast?  They must have loved it, right? Wrong. They complain that there's very little "new" in the show, and what is new is painful to watch.

There is a mock game-show, in which Moore challenges “the smartest American in the room” in a quiz against “the dumbest Canadian.” This is meant to prove that the dumbest Canadian is more intelligent than the smartest American—the quiz follows a rundown of how intellectually lacking Americans are—but the night I saw it the American won.

The winner was a student from Sarah Lawrence College, who also tried to be funny, and the Canadian was a lawyer who tried to as well, and the whole thing was excruciating.

Look, I'll say this for Moore: He once had the capacity to be genuinely funny.  You may hate his politics, you may despise his do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do lifestyle, but (a long time ago) there was an honest-to-God comedic spark there. Back in the 90's there was a Moore-helmed television show called TV Nation  - a sort of proto-Daily Show - that was legitimately hilarious. Moore is also a tremendously gifted editor. Somewhere, buried under decades of internalized rage and misdirected anger, that guy still probably exists.


Years of utterly phony activism, hypocrisy, and thinly disguised strong-arm grandstanding have demolished whatever it was he could have been.

Now he's just boring, and even those who share his beliefs are having a tough time ignoring it.

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