Review By Tessa Stickland
The Briefing is American political satire by actual American (and top-notch comic) Melissa McGlensey. It’s a riot.
The show sees McGlensey portray American politician Sarah Huckabee Sanders giving a briefing to the Australian media (a.k.a the audience) on behalf of former president Donald Trump. Sarah Huckabee Sanders served as the White House press secretary under Trump from 2017 to 2019 and is currently the governor of Arkansas.
But don’t worry. You don’t need a detailed knowledge of Huckabee Sanders to understand the show (I certainly didn't know anything about her). McGlensey covers all the crucial points through her impersonation.
However, if you know truly nothing about American politics (especially around the Trump presidency) – you might be a bit lost. Or it could serve as a learning opportunity? But realistically, if you even briefly followed American politics you’ll have enough context to enjoy the show.
McGlensey is the perfect person to be doing this show and telling these jokes. Firstly, because she’s American, the show isn’t contrived in the way it is when some Australians/non-Americans do American political satire.
When non-Americans do it, it often comes across as “Haha, dumb Americans. We’re sooo much better than that.” When I don’t think that’s actually the case (we're better than America in some ways, and worse than others. It's nuanced! I personally don't think it helps us make things better by patting ourselves on the shoulder simply over the shortcomings of another nation).
Because McGlensey lives in Melbourne, The Briefing plays perfectly for an Australian audience. There’s no concern of it being alienating due to being a show by an American about America. She’s one of us too! She gets our sensibilities. It also gives her extra permission to mock us as much as she mocks America. She’s authentic in both approaches. She’s got the best of both worlds!
You often hear nowadays that, “You can’t joke about anything anymore!”
Actually, you can.
"It's woke culture gone mad!"
You can joke about almost any taboo subject matter and remain 'woke' (or not a bigot), so long as the jokes are framed without oppressed people being the butt of the joke.
You can still say outrageous things! McGlensey gives us a masterclass in this with The Briefing.
Though if you are staunchly conservative, right-wing, and/or a Trump supporter, you might want to give this a miss. Unless you don't understand satire and parody! In which case you'll be fully on board.
From costuming to set dressing, everything about The Briefing is considered. The structure of the show is great, with a lovely ebb and flow pulling the audience through different subject matter.
McGlensey swaps between direct addresses to the audience, sections aided with slideshows, and sections of light audience interaction (it's super light. Don't worry).
I love McGlensey's choice to have Huckabee Sanders' assistant/body-guard double as the show's tech. Felix MacFarlane is great as Gumbo (dumb name I love it). Having an extra person in the room helps smooth out tech and allows for a few extra gags (such as crowdwork bits that get incorporated into the slideshow).
The Briefing has a touch of Shaun Micallef to it, which isn't surprising as it's directed by comedian and writer Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, who wrote for Mad as Hell. So if you're a fan of Micallef, or other satire in the same vein, you're sure to love McGlensey's work.
Go catch her as she carves her own path in the world of political satire.