Fed up with yuppie brunch and his life in the liberal bubble in general, San Francisco native Dan Hoyle decided he needed to explore the oft-lauded “real America” of the 2008 presidential campaigns. He bought a van and spent 100 days traveling rural highways through the Deep South, Appalachia and the Midwest in search of homegrown country wisdom. What he found was anger, ignorance and racism, as well as kindness, hospitality and hope.
Hoyle, a journalist, playwright and performer, turned his experiences from the trip into an acclaimed, new one-man show, The Real Americans. Compared to the likes of Lily Tomlin and John Leguizamo in his talent for impersonation, Hoyle tells the stories of the people he met in their own words, voices and mannerisms, and creates composite characters to represent them—many of which would be offensive if they weren’t so hilariously dead-on. There’s the crippled racist in Alabama who reckons that terrorists don’t mess with the South because they must have seen Cops and know that “rednecks don’t go down easy,” and the evangelist grandfather in Texas who explains that giraffes are proof of creationism because they don’t get dizzy when they raise their heads.
Hoyle mocks the “latte liberals” to equally hilarious effect. He imitates his friend Emily, exclaiming, “I’m so over all of it. I’m such a hipster bitch, I’m even over myself.” But whether ranting about how Obama is a Muslim, lamenting the lack of work to be found or praying for their grandchildren shipping out to Afghanistan, each of Hoyle’s characters come off as both real and surprisingly sympathetic.
“I think the challenge we find ourselves in as a country, and what I try to show in the play, is that we shouldn’t view people as our enemies—they’re our brothers and sisters,” Hoyle says. “It’s really easy I think for people in the liberal bubbles to either write these people off completely or have a sort of rose-colored view of ‘Can’t we just get along?’ And I think neither one is correct. You have to acknowledge the differences.”