Funny Business: Always Appropriate, Never Controversial

By Nancee Magistad, co-producer and co-writer of Facebook Lite

It all started in 1982, at the middle school talent show, when Nancee first performed stand-up. She was hooked and performed at the school talent shows for three more years. But then she took a “break” for 25+ years, built a career, and in 2011, started performing stand-up again (part-time).

Politically, Nancee was a liberal republican or a conservative democrat (depending who asked), consistent with her diplomatic, middle-child roots. When the war in the middle east came up, however, Nancee came to realize she was complacent when it came to topics like politics and current events. She eventually started paying attention, helped form a Current Events Club for others in her shoes, and became an avid NPR listener and member.

When the opportunity arose to write a show for the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2017, she returned to an idea she had with co-creator, Jake Cohen, and co-writer, Mary, about satirizing Facebook. As a loyal Facebook user, Nancee had no trouble poking fun at the endless social media topics: sharing photos, posting travel plans, posting recipes, sharing cat videos, etc.

Then it occurred to the writing team that they could create a show of funny vignettes supplemented by their customer service and compliance expertise to form Facebook Lite, a faux-social media site where users could relax knowing that professional monitors were screening content to proactively “help” users from sending or receiving anything controversial. Hence, the mantra of Facebook Lite: Always appropriate, never controversial.

In addition to poking fun at Facebook, however, Nancee realized there was a greater message akin to the Dante saying, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” A dark quote? Sure, especially for someone as cheerful as she is! But Nancee’s point was that simply being Minnesota nice, avoiding controversy, and avoiding the expression of an opinion has no time or place in our current climate. In fact, she maintains that the more people shy away from having an opinion, the more we create a slippery slope that will lead to an inability of others to think and act critically.

To solidify her position, the writers added the country of China as a “character,” knowing Facebook and other social media outlets are banned in that country, to illustrate that slippery slope. Spoiler alert: throughout the show, Jake Zuckerberg anxiously awaits a call from the Chinese government with an offer to expand Facebook Lite into the growing economy. When he finally receives the call, Jake is surprised by his reaction to their offer.

A journalism major by training, Nancee, is an advocate for free speech, be it on Facebook or any other platform. She also knows her barometer for pushing the limit on comedic material—she prefers the cleaner side of comedy—differs from others’ limits. But like her middle child outlook, it’s about striking a balance between having an opinion and expressing it in a way in which it does more good than harm.

 

Facebook Lite (FBL) was co-written by Mary Korte and stars Dylan Olmsted in the role of Jake Zuckerberg. FBL is being directed by Fringe veteran Becci Schmidt and also stars Gayle Aldrich, Skyler Bough, Amy Burge, Jessi Goins, Aiden Milligan and Tom S. Tea. Facebook Lite is delivered from the perspective of new employee orientation. During the show, audience members will act as trainees in FBL’s rapidly-expanding call center and witness the call monitoring process in action. Ever wonder how something simple like a recipe could be flagged as controversial? Come see for yourself at HUGE Theater on August 3, 5, 8, 11, and 13. Tickets are available here.

Nancee Magistad is a first-time Fringe writer/producer who works in Product Surveillance at a local medical device company and is a PT building manager at Brave New Workshop. When she’s not working, she’s writing comedy (jokes, sketches, how-to presentations, songs) and performing stand-up part time. She’s also a member of Fearless Comedy Productions.

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