‘The Yes Men’ will visit JCU to speak of social justice through comedy

September 17th, 2015


The John Carroll University political science department will continue The Suopis Lecture Series with its seventh public lecture, “Meaningful Mischief: Comedy and Activism with The Yes Men,” which will be held on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in Kulas auditorium.


In memory of JCU political science 1970 alum, Donald William Suopis, the series features speakers for the JCU and Cleveland community about citizen activism.


Suopis’ unfailing commitment to serving the public, in addition to his private volunteer work, makes him a role model for community activism and critical debate.


The purpose of the lecture series is to engage community members in wanting to actively serve the public good.


The lecture series first began in 2008 with guest speaker and JCU alum, John Cranely, who is now the mayor of Cincinnati. This year, the lecture series welcomes “The Yes Men,” two men who artistically pose as company representatives to advocate citizen activism through comedy.


Professor Mindy Peden of the Department of Political Science has been trying to bring “The Yes Men” to campus for the past twelve years.


“I’ve wanted to bring them here because they’re artists, in a way, but they’re also activists.” Peden said. “Their work really pushes the boundaries and questions about social justice that I think will be very interesting to this community. They perform pranks, posing as powerful people in front of cameras in order to get strong reactions.”


The lecture series is co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, Tim Russert Department of Communication & Theatre Arts, Department of Sociology, Environmental Studies Program, Peace, Justice, and Human Rights Program, Arrupe Scholars Program and Ride for Miles, with partnerships with Evil Twin Booking Agency, Sculpture & Expanded Media and The Cleveland Institute of Art.


“One of the issues that ‘The Yes Men’ care very deeply about is global warming and environmental activism,” Peden said.


“They have been doing a lot to try and raise awareness for divestment, which means to stop investing in fossil fuels,” said Peden. “They are also visual artists at the same time. That is why the Environmental Studies Program, Ride for Miles, and The Cleveland Institute of Art are just a few of the co-sponsors who have signed on to help this lecture series.”


“Making Media Spectacles for Your Cause,” a workshop held on Friday, Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. in Dolan 202-203 following the lecture, will provide the public with strategies for bringing injustice issues to light.


“All of the junior Arrupe Scholar students will be attending the workshop,” said Peden. “The Arrupe Scholars not only do research in social justice, but they also have methods of advocacy that are extremely effective in terms of using the media. That’s something I think could be of use to students who care deeply about the causes that they are advocating.”


Peden continued, saying, “A lot of the times, even here at John Carroll, we know there is injustice out there, but we don’t know how to raise awareness or how to something about it. We know that when we become aware of a social justice issue, it becomes obvious to us, but that doesn’t mean it is to everybody else. In this day and age, with the Internet and the wide availability with technology, there is a lot we can do to get some type of attention to our cause through raising awareness.”


Peden further warns about the dangers of oversaturation through the use of technology when trying to bring attention to social injustice.


“You have to have the right kind of strategy and be very savvy about it,” said Peden. “I am hoping ‘The Yes Men’s’ visit will prompt an interesting, campus-wide discussion, mainly because the majority of their audience will consider what they do to be controversial. Social justice is something that we talk about quite a lot at this university, and I think an updated view through brought by ‘The Yes Men’s’ lecture will be beneficial for everybody.”


Concluding with her hopes for what audiences will take away from the upcoming lecture, Peden said, “I want the lecture to prompt ideas, to spark debate, and get people really passionate about their concerns and feel empowered.”


‘The Yes Men’s’ comedic lecture will provide an entertaining perspective while providing audiences with how to effectively participate in citizen activism.


“Even if you don’t agree with what they are doing, it is important to be aware of why they’re doing what they’re doing,” said Peden.


“Their argument is implicitly telling the truth through lying and also bringing up issues that most speakers dance around, which misleads people into thinking certain organizations are providing something good for everybody. ‘The Yes Men’ go straight to the actual policies of an organization or company and say what it is they are doing and what it means, while provoking a strong response from their audience when they realize the truth. I personally think their tactics and strategies as speakers have been the most effective in educating and entertaining audiences.”


“Meaningful Mischief: Comedy and Activism with The Yes Men” lecture presentation and follow-up workshop are free and open to the public.


To register for the workshop or for more information, contact Dr. Mindy Peden at