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Libertarian Comedian Dave Smith on the Alt-Right, Christopher Cantwell, and How the Left 'Went Off the Rails'

Bernie Sanders vs. Ron Paul is "the difference between a propagandist and a truth teller."

New York comedian Dave Smith says he "became a libertarian through the Ron Paul movement. "He challenged all of my preconceived notions about what government was [and]...inspired me to read all of these people, like Rothbard, Mises, and Friedman."

When Bernie Sanders became a national figure, what Smith hated most about the Vermont senator was that he was aesthetically like a carbon copy of Paul—"a kind of disheveled, older guy who's just a truth teller."

"[The difference was that] Bernie would go around to these kids and be like, 'Hey, so you're a college kid in 2017, you're among the richest, freest, most privileged people who have ever existed, [so] billionaires should be paying your bills for you'...It was the difference between a propagandist and a truth teller."

Smith, 34, is a regular on the New York City stand up circuit and hosts two popular podcasts on the GaS Digital Network, Legion of Skanks and Part of the Problem. On September 11, he'll release his first comedy special, Libertas, which will be available for download here. You can watch teaser clips of the special here and here.

Smith sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about how Trump manipulates the left, why the media's reaction to the Syria bombing was "the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life," how to turn millennials libertarian, and his decision to have alt-right lightning rod and "racist shock jock" Christopher Cantwell as a recent guest on his podcast.

"I have to play this left-wing game," Smith says. "When I go on a Fox News panel with...a CIA killer, or somebody who's advocating for the next war...I never get accused of being chummy with them."

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Andrew Heaton.

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This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Dave Smith: Thank you for having me. It's good to be here. I've made it. The libertarian Super Bowl.

Nick Gillespie: Yeah, this is it. Well, the libertarian Buzz Bowl, which is a much maligned and ignored Reason TV video starring Chuck Schumer and Four Loko versus Juice back when they were caffeinated. Never mind. Talk about "Libertas."

Smith: It's my first comedy special. I've been doing stand up for 11 years. I'm very proud of it. It was produced by GaS Digital Network, which is my Podcast network and Luis J Gomez, who is a hilarious comedian. Just a great entrepreneur, he's the guy who started GaS Digital and he directed it. Yep, it's out September 11th. He chose that date, not me, but I'm excited and I appreciate the nice words.

Gillespie: So this is going to do for libertarian comedy what September 11th did for libertarian comedy?

Smith: That's libertarian comedy. Yes, exactly.

Gillespie: It was a redevelopment project according to Paul Krugman who literally, like less than a week after the 9/11 attacks said, "You know, the silver lining in this is that there's going to be a lot of building down there now."

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Having to explain Buzz Bowl right off the bat? Not a good sign.

    I may make an effort to listen to this guy's stuff.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    Can't wait to watch this. I know about Dave from his appearances on Rogan. I think he has been a good influence on Rogan.

  • mashed potatoes||

    I like this guy. he was on joe rogan podcast once. hilarious gary johnson impression. that is all.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...as a third party candidate, you have to do a little bit more than be preferable. I'm not looking at you as the lesser of two evils.

    He's got the libertarian cred, it seems.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So, but I just look at the right over the last 10 years, and I think by and large, even if you want to focus on the 50 crazies in Charlottesville, by large, I think the right wing has gotten a lot better from a libertarian perspective. They're much less hawkish. They're cooler about gay marriage. They're less pushing religion. Most of them have kind of retreated to libertarian positions.

    Gillespie has found Kennedy's replacement.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    So, then why are millennials so totally in the tank for Democratic presidential candidates?

    GASP.

  • Nuwanda||

    And there's the tone deaf voice of modern libertarianism.

    Hey, Nick, if libs like yourself, Reason, The Libertarian Party, et al., are so supportive of letting people just walk across the border, pretty as they please, "then why are [immigrants] so totally in the tank for Democratic presidential candidates" and not libertarian ones?

    It would be funny if not so fucking pathetic.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Libertarian Comedian

    Doug Stanhope or GTFO.

    Alternate comment: i got your libertarian joke right here - Gary Johnson's 2016 campaign!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Reason should totally do a super uncomfortable Doug Stanhope interview again. Gillepsie could never handle visiting Bisbee. Hell, probably couldn't handle visiting Phoenix.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Mike Riggs could do it. Riggs eats rattlesnakes for a snack, and picks his teeth with the bones of murderous desert drifters.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Riggs? Riggs always struck me like Mikey Blumberg from Recess.

  • ||

    Doug Stanhope or GTFO.

    I like Doug, but you must admit that ass-pussy jokes can be a bit of acquired taste. He also, sometimes, portrays libertarianism and/or eco-politics as something we plebes couldn't possibly understand.

    Again, not saying he's not funny or not libertarian, just that I think there's plenty of room for more libertarian comedy.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Gillespie: Don't you get tired of though, when people say things, and this was ... You know, I find anybody who's carrying a Nazi flag, unless they're in a touring company of "The Sound of Music," you know, that's sad and it's pathetic, right?

    Smith: Absolutely, yeah.

    Gillespie: But people were like oh, as long as they're doing it at a private function, we should have no opinion.

    That's a shot at you, commenters.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yup. Nick is a historical marker tearing down hate speech hating, something alright.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Because deporting illegal aliens is VERY racist. Who cares about rule of law and all the many non-white people that live in the USA already as citizens.

    We clearly need as many non-Americans to live in the USA because.... reasons.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Nick: How do you convince Trump supporters that this guy is kinda fucked up.

    The best way to start that process is to quit insulting the half of America that voted for him. That's not the end of the process, but it's the start. I'm not saying you have to agree with his supporters, but you need to engage them, and discuss Trump's failings and do so without unnecessarily making things up. That's where I'd start.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    He can't. Too much TDS prevents him from admitting Trump might do okay and forward some Libertarian agenda items if he was not bogged down with Russia-gate, pussy-gate, statue-gate, perfect storm-gate, deportation-gate, etc.

  • Nuwanda||

    At heart, NG represents that slightly effete sensibility that can't quite get beyond the uncouth image. Ultimately they'd prefer Obama's syrupy, professorial tone. What they seem to miss is that Obama is syrupy and professorial as a substitute for substance and as a bright and shiny thing that flatters to deceive.

    Actually, Reason should be nostalgic for Reagan. A better speaker than even Obama, funnier, and with far more libertarian creds than Trump, and a greater sense of the American spirit.

    But they won't be *that* nostalgic. No, no.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    The thing is, I understand that some Trump supporters have *always* figured he was a bit fucked up, but that they don't despise him with the white-hot intensity with which they despise his opponents.

    Maybe they'd prefer a better version of Trump, but they're cynical enough to believe they won't get one, and a sincere-seeming guy who mentions some of the same concerns they have may be the best they can hope for - indeed better than they had *dared* hope for - so it's going to take more than "Trump has flaws" to get them to stop supporting him.

    In fact, how would a pro-Trump false-flag operation, designed to solidify Trump's support among his base, have behaved differently from the #Resist movement, antifa, MSM, etc?

  • ||

    Nick: How do you convince Trump supporters that this guy is kinda fucked up.
    ...
    discuss Trump's failings and do so without unnecessarily making things up. That's where I'd start.

    I thought this exchange was priceless and Smith addressed it almost flawlessly. Nick's not asking how to convince people that Trump is kinda fucked up*. He's asking how to convince people that Trump is (just shy of) Hitler or convince the Nazis that support him that Nazis are dumb. Smith points out that he was making jokes to his alt-right friends about the simply fucked up Trump does in their own context.

    *I'm certainly reading into his question.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    I think he hints at the answer for both the Trump and anti-Trump movements: don't try to say that the guy is unprecedented all the time. Instead focus on just how little has changed once you look beneath all the hysteria and Trump bombast. He's basically the 90s Democrat we all thought he'd be

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Also, point out the times where Trump has abandoned his campaign positions, whether because of political expedience, coming to terms with reality, or the fact that he forgot what his position was 5 minutes afterwards.

  • Red Twilight||

    That would matter if they cared. They do not

  • Red Twilight||

    the same old rightwinger BS. Stop insulting half the America that voted for him. Strangely, that homily never makes it to the other half, the libtards, and the communists, and the coastal elites, or snowflakes.

    What, the Drumpfistas are so weak, that you call their Fuhrer a racist misogynist and point out that none of them finds that to be a dealbreaker, they have NO choice but to vote for him on spite.

    Go fuck yourself!

    but you need to engage them
    The assumption being that has never even been attempted. Try on Breitbart. Engage them now, for example to find out why their ire is directed at Paul Ryan for the "awful deal" with the "demoncrats"

  • Curt2004||

    "Stop insulting half the America that voted for him."

    How is 63M votes half of America? Looks more like 20% to me.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Huh @18:00 sounds like this guy came to libertarianism the same way I did. I always credited the left with my full transformation to libertarian thinking. Then some kind of spring broke loose in the machinery and they went fucking nuts.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    The left of a decade ago sold things like gay marriage in bery libertarian styles: why should the government care what two people do in the privacy of their own bedroom?

    Funny what happens if you extend that sentiment beyond that single issue

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    berry*

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    "Hey, Curley, sign this consent form."

    "What for, Moe?"

    "So's I can poke you in the eye."

    "But that would hurt."

    "But it would be funny."

    "OK, Moe, you're the smart one."

    /comedy vetted for NAP compliance

  • Robert||

    But you know, that is exactly a bit they would've done.

  • San Diego||

    Good interview, but I can't share their optimism about a libertarian afterlife (after we become "unglued"). Libertarians will soon be disappearing from view in our culture IMO. And Tony is our future!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Look at Debbie Downer over here.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Tony isn't the future. He's the present.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Technically, Tony's just a boring, intellectually shallow nihilist.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I know, and that's so 'now', baby.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Tony is a pragmatist, and all who disagreed with his singular vision of pragmatism are shitheads.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Racists.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    That word lost its bite. Now we're all Nazis

  • Glide||

    Why can't we be both?

    RaciNazis?

  • Qsl||

    Libertarianism as a movement is mostly reactionary, pointing out the inadequacies of bureaucracy, much like socialism is reactionary to the inadequacies of capitalism. A few true believers aside, it's not like most people have fully realized philosophies government, instead flittering back and forth as conditions on the ground indicate which is more responsible for the current crisis. Most would rather things Just Worked so they could get back to drinking beer and watching the big game.

    As long as there is government overreach, there is libertarianism to criticize the inefficiency and brutality of the state. Likewise, when people fear The Abyss at the gate, some flavor of authoritarianism is there to pick up the pieces.

    Essentially, we always get the worst of both worlds.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Libertarianism as a movement is mostly reactionary

    I disagree. Within every philosophy there are reactionary elements-- and sometimes all adherents are reactionary on occasion. But libertarianism seems to be the one philosophy that can think more than two chess moves ahead when a piece of legislation is passed.

    I mean, seriously, is there anything more reactionary than a legislator passing minimum wage increases?

  • Qsl||

    But most aren't libertarians, but nearly all willing to co-opt libertarian positions as is convenient. Even libertarians waver on questions like child pornography or immigration, or even the sacrosanct NAP (witness Reason's reporting on the build-up to the Iraq War).

    Even minimum wage increases are benign supposing the rest of the economy is robust enough to cover the bet. In fact, there wouldn't even be discussion of the minimum wage if capitalism were more adept at its promises.

  • Red Twilight||

    Because when it comes to economic theories there is laissez faire, completely unregulated, unrestricted free market Capitalism, and socialism.

    If libertarianism has never seen to succeed it is because we never try anything but socialism.

    And of course, there is never ever any mention of starting points.

    I mean, seriously, is there anything more reactionary than a legislator passing minimum wage increases?
    Yes, failing to enact any legislation addressing the need for that reactionary legislator's intent in doing that.

    Do it. If your ideas are superior they should at least win in a small enough hellhole and succeed wildly so as to corner the market at least once, if not once and for all.

    Like anything, it has good ideas, not an incomplete set of remedies when they do not work, and absolutely no path to get there from here.

    It's like describing Utopia and constantly complaining that we are stuck in Cleveland. If only we could be in Utopia, and NOT one map, or one travel success that sends back photos.

  • Qsl||

    Because when it comes to economic theories there is laissez faire, completely unregulated, unrestricted free market Capitalism, and socialism.

    I seem to recall potlatch among other economic models, beside the absolutism of binary choices reeking of false dilemma- you might as well have said all economics is a choice between fear and love and be ridiculed out of the room.

    If libertarianism has never seen to succeed it is because we never try anything but socialism.

    This sounds suspiciously like REAL communism has never been tried.

    A sign of sanity is acknowledging the limitations of any particular model, and even deferring that a series of pros and cons might apply.

    You have failed this in a dramatic fashion.

  • Mark22||

    You need to look up "reactionary"; you're using it wrong.

    Libertarianism as a movement is mostly [a reaction to] the inadequacies of bureaucracy

    No. Libertarianism is simply classical liberalism and Enlightenment values: individual liberties and personal responsibility.

    much like socialism is [a reaction to] the inadequacies of capitalism

    No. Socialism is a power grab by disenchanted and failing scions of the bourgeoisie.

    A few true believers aside, it's not like most people have fully realized philosophies government,

    This is true: most people who claim to be libertarians or socialists are not; they simply claim to follow an ideology that happens to advocate some policies they like. That's true particularly of libertarianism, where there are a lot of people who say "I like this libertarian thing, except...".

    Some people claim to be libertarians because they like cannabis and open borders; because they like butt sex and prostitution; because they like low taxes and little regulation. But while libertarianism generally favors laws that permit all of those, that's not the essence of libertarianism. In fact, communism (theoretically) favors the same things.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I like his attitude about refusing to apologize for strangers standing around him. We need more of that.

  • Arizona_Guy||

    I think he is spot on about people being more concerned with words than actions.

    Judging by a totally unscientific survey of my FB feed, people were more upset by Trump's reaction to Charlottesville than the actual violence there.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What about his wife's high heels? What're they, chopped liver?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    If chopped liver is gauche, then yes. PEOPLE WERE DYING!

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    Oh shit Dave Smith just made Mises and Reason in the same week! Maybe there is hope that we bridge the cosmo-paleo gap

    I love the guy. His Rogan appearance was great, as was his Thaddeus Russell appearance recently. His podcast is good too. He has a small handful of amazing points that he maybe repeats a bit too much, and he readily admits he's more interested in the big picture than day-to-day horse race politics (which I am too, but you need other podcasts for dissecting news because he misremembers everyone's name), but I think trying to make it in such a leftist industry makes him uniquely equipped to rant about their hypocrisy. Plus I totally get his story coming from the left once it became clear that the left wasn't the real antiwar movement

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    1. Great comment on lefties complaining about Cantwell and Spencer while bragging on their full-blown Communist and Marxist professors.

    2. Agree that Trump is hard to figure -- idiot in so many ways, worse than Hillary in so many ways, but also a breath of fresh air in far more ways -- done more to slow down government overreach than any President since Carter deregulated transportation. Including Reagan. And he gets the left so riled up over such banal trivialities, which is worth something.

  • Cy||

    "And he gets the left so riled up over such banal trivialities, which is worth something."

    As a libertarian, I felt like I/we were screwed either way. At least this way is fun to watch. I feel that if Hillary was elected, we'd already be at war with some new no name country, you know, liberating it from itself and the cameramen at the 'News' studios wouldn't be able to clean the lenses off fast enough from all of the orgasms the anchors would be having.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Hey Nick, shut up and let your guest talk.

  • Curt2004||

    Exactly. It was almost painful to read.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    I think he may sort of have a point about the implications of an "American crack-up" not necessarily being bad. As for the breakup of the Soviet Union, I don't think you could say that Russians are that much better off. At best, the deck is stacked in favor of the ones that made it through the collapse ok without drinking themselves to death. If there's one thing that kept Putin genuinely popular, it's been his repudiation of the 90's and 00's. Clearly, most of the people in the formerly soviet and eastern bloc states are better off now. As for Russia, they've gone from being the core of the soviet union back to imperial russia. Maybe Russians can buy toilet paper and their emperor won't send them to siberia if they stay out of politics, but not all that much has changed.

  • Nuwanda||

    It's always been a wet dream for anarchists, and many libertarians. They've got this misbegotten notion about the inherent efficacy of small states.

    A US deconstruction would result in just a many California's and New Yorks as other types of states. Not exactly a win-win, and history tells us statist entities love to fight each other. Welcome to the California-Oregon War of 2051.

  • Curt2004||

    Actually, it would be a good opportunity for CA to split into reasonable sized chunks.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Two points for publishing a transcript.

    Should do the same for Vlogs.

  • Nuwanda||

    Alex Jones, a "performance artist".

    Nice.

  • Red Twilight||

    So Aqua Buddha's daddy is the truth teller?

    Like how he is a libertarian?

    Like how he saw gas spike to $6?
    Like how most people wanted the gold standard?
    That only 10 or so racist comments were there in his newsletters?
    That taxes doubled under Rick Perry?
    That Perry supported Hillarycare?
    Like how the USA is bankrupt?
    Like how Democrats only delivered tax hikes in the 80s?

  • Robert||

    "Buzz Bowl" is maligned & ignored? Maybe the best Reason video ever! I keep repeating aloud, "Here's the kickoff...and it's a high ball."

  • josh||

    That's a good parlor game...

    1) What percent of Americans think Trump is going to destroy everything we believe in/he's the answer to our prayers??

    2) What percent only generally support Trump/Democrats??

    3) How many just hate the other side more than they believe in anything in particular?

    4) How many are just riding out the storm and hoping neither side kills us all until we can find someone better?

  • Cy||

    Pretty much at the point I don't care anymore.

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