Politics

The Deeper Dig: From ‘Fan Club’ to ‘Roseanne’?

Bradford Broyles started an anonymous video series to send up Gov. Scott, but he wants to take his comedy one step farther.

The Deeper Dig is a weekly podcast from the VTDigger newsroom. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Bradford Broyles, a filmmaker and GOP operative, has spent the last year and a half quietly publishing a video series lampooning Republican Gov. Phil Scott for drifting towards the political center. Now, Broyles is training his lens beyond Vermont.

“We want to create content for red-state America,” Broyles says. “And it’s kind of ironic that we’re doing it from Vermont, the bluest of blue states.”

Broyles and his partner Len Britton began producing satirical commercials during Britton’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Sen. Patrick Leahy in 2010. They started the “Fan Club” series (since rebranded as “News Done Right”) in early 2017 to criticize “left turns” made by the recently elected Gov. Scott.

Analysts say this week’s primary results show Scott losing support among his conservative base. Broyles believes his show forecast that shift.

Bradford Broyles

Broyles appeared in a satirical campaign ad for Len Britton in 2010.

“‘Fan Club’ early on saw where this administration was going, and we wanted to make a point of it — to call it out for what it is,” he says.

“Fan Club” posts were heavily — and anonymously — promoted on social media channels related to Vermont politics. Reporting by Seven Days and VPR suggested that Broyles was connected to the series, but the filmmaker refused to comment on his participation.

He and Britton are now shopping another series, “The Potwins,” to major networks. The show, which stars Britton’s son Jonah alongside professional actors like Kevin Sorbo, sends up modern political correctness. Broyles says the success of shows like “Roseanne” and Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” proves there’s a market for family sitcoms with a conservative lens.

But leveling up on his comedy mission means coming clean about the biting satire he’s produced locally.

Broyles, like Scott, has argued for more civility in political conversation. “We need to stop labeling each other with derogatory terms,” he wrote in a 2016 VPR commentary.

But the “Fan Club” videos are often unforgiving of the “Thunder Gov,” as the hosts call Scott. Seven Days reported that their criticism of the governor led to a formal complaint for violating electioneering laws.

“We’re a comedy show, and some of it’s not civil,” Broyles says. “That’s part of pushing the envelope and doing what we do. Parody and satire can be brutal at times.” He adds that the electioneering complaint is unfounded under his First Amendment rights.

The videos have also taken numerous stances that run counter to those of most liberal Vermonters: questioning climate change, opposing sanctuary cities, or mocking the #MeToo movement and NFL anthem protests.

Broyles says these extreme positions are all in the name of entertainment. “We go to the absurd level of things just to make points,” he says.

He declined to provide details on which platforms have expressed interest in either of his series. But he plans to continue working to expand his message: “Our big-picture vision is to create an entertainment network for conservatives.”

On this week’s podcast, Broyles talks to VTDigger’s Colin Meyn about sending up Scott in the name of conservative comedy.

 

Subscribe to The Deeper Dig on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Music by Blue Dot Sessions. Additional audio courtesy VPR.

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Mike Dougherty

About Mike

Mike Dougherty is VTDigger’s digital editor. He is a DC-area native and studied journalism and music at New York University. Prior to joining VTDigger, Mike spent two years as a program coordinator for the Vermont Humanities Council. Before moving to Vermont in 2015, he spent seven years managing recording operations for the oral history nonprofit StoryCorps, assisted Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas, and contributed to the Brooklyn-based alt-weekly L Magazine.

Email: [email protected]

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