Mad Magazine editor to perform at Englert

The Daily Iowan, by Jordan Montgomery
September 23, 2011

“American Heretic,” a show full of edgy, outspoken material, will leave an Iowa City audience questioning the roots of their religions.

“This is a show that really challenges the status quo,” comedian Joe Raiola said. “I like taking people out of their comfort zone and challenging the way people normally see things. It’s a provocative show because it questions conventional belief in religion, in God, and in country as well.”

Raiola will perform at 8 p.m. today at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is $15 for students, $20 for the general public. He will also lead a question-and-answer discussion session at 12:30 p.m. today in 1100 University Capitol Centre. The session is open to the public, and admission is free.

“American Heretic” is Raiola’s third touring comedy show; his first was “The Joy of Censorship” and his second “Almost Obscene.” Both shows dealt with censorship and controversial First Amendment issues.

Aside from performing live comedy, Raiola has written for *MAD* magazine since the mid-1980s, and he is a senior editor there.

“There’s no question that Joe’s an oddball,” said MAD Editor-in-Chief John Ficarra. “He loved non-sequitur humor when he was younger but recently has gotten much more interested in politics and social commentary. And his show reflects that interest. He’s passionate and wants to make his audience both laugh and think.”

Despite being an “oddball,” Raiola is serious about his comedy. He said he conducted research for his show so he could present statistics dealing with religious issues. Such as, how many people in the United States believe in the devil, believe in God, and believe that God answers prayers.

“I find that presenting that information gives an interesting picture of the spiritual psychology of the country,” he said.

The director of “American Heretic,” Barbara Pitcher, noted the depth of the show.

“When we work on pieces like this, we [go] from a very deep emotional place to get his personal take on what’s going on in the world,” she said. “Sometimes, he might come across as a bit irreverent, but he comes from a very caring place.”

Considering the themes of “American Heretic” in conjunction with the current political climate in, the show will be thought provoking for some.

“It’s a good time for some political humor because Iowa is such a political hot spot,” said Nathan Gould, the Englert marketing director. “It should be a nice comic perspective on politics and culture in general.”

While the subject matter is serious, Ficarra jokingly recalls seeing Raiola perform and knows the effect he has on audiences.

“I’ve seen Joe perform live once, and my first thought was, ‘I want a refund.’ And I got in for free,” Ficarra said. “But I’m sure he’s gotten much better since last week. And I would urge all Iowans to get out and see Joe and his fabulous show.”

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