Available for study (or your viewing pleasure) free of charge via BitTorrent and VODO, Yes Men represents no less than the 21st-century evolution of satire as I learned it at The Second City theatre here in Toronto some fifteen years ago.
I have to admit that I liked this film right from the start — the Creative Commons notice in the title credits instantly brought a smile to my face, and in a perfect world would usurp the MGM lion and the like from all feature releases worldwide.
And this is really what Yes Men is all about — a perfect world. The title of the film is actually is devious double-entendre. It speaks to the pair of sycophantic protagonists who fit in to corporate culture by telling audiences at plenary sessions what they want to hear. But it’s also a nod to that old adage of improvised comedy: Say “yes” and see what happens.
Early on in the film Andy Bichlbaum takes heat from the BBC for impersonating a DOW Chemical spokesperson on that network and announcing reparations for the infamous Union Carbide chemical spill in Bhopal, India. He and fellow Yes Man Mike Bonanno are accused of not considering the false hopes of those affected by the disaster, so the pair set off for Bhopal to find out for themselves.
It’s this thrust of the film that’s so deeply satisfying, when the Yes Men eschew what corporate America wants to hear, and instead shows them the righteous path by speaking on their behalf, then stepping back to show them (and us) the results.
I stopped watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report — the supposed gold standards of satire — sometime last year, because I came to realize that ultimately neither are doing anything more than preaching to their own choir, just as Bill O’Reilly is to his. But the Yes Men aren’t sitting behind desks being smug; they are in the wild, facing the enemy on all sides, making dreams come true — if only for a few fleeting moments.
The Yes Men Fix the World transcends light entertainment and boldly embraces outright activism. And honestly, after watching it every other comedy seems to come up short.
And in the spirit of action I’ll invite you to make a donation to their next project, like I just did.