In April 2010, the musical American Idiot, adapted from the hit Green Day album of the same name, opened on Broadway. On Thursday night, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong was back in Manhattan’s Theater District in a very different setting: dancing amiably while flanked by a pair of buff male strippers (who are clad nightly in nothing but snug, sequined American-flag speedos) as C + C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” blared through the speakers at the Belasco Theater.
Armstrong was a guest on Michael Moore’s one-man show The Terms of My Surrender, which mixes anecdotes about affecting political change, critiques of ineptitude on the political left, excoriations of leaders on the right and, at the very end, a happy pair of police-officers-turned-strippers. Moore keeps the show unpredictable by inserting an interview segment toward the end of the proceedings on most nights; previous visitors include Representative Maxine Waters, Jim Carrey, Gloria Steinem, Mark Ruffalo, Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington and Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters.
Armstrong was a sensible pick: Like Moore, he’s vocally committed to a number of left-wing causes, and both men were outspoken critics of the Iraq War and George W. Bush’s presidency. They also happen to share a Broadway director – Armstrong occasionally acted in American Idiot, which was directed by Michael Mayer, who’s now the director of The Terms of My Surrender. “This is your long-awaited return to Broadway tonight,” Moore told his guest. The two sat in a pair of leather armchairs on an otherwise bare stage, Armstrong’s spiffy-punk attire – dark-striped blazer and tight blue pants – contrasting with Moore’s cheerful dishevelment.
Armstrong’s statements aligned neatly with the previous 100 minutes of Moore’s show. “The first time I heard of Trump [who apparently came to American Idiot on opening night seven years ago] legitimately running for president, the first thing I thought of was fascism,” the singer said. “I was just thinking of all the buildings he’s got his name on. That type of narcissism – wow, that’s not that much different from Saddam Hussein. He’s batshit crazy.”
“This isn’t just a Republican that you’re dealing with,” Armstrong added later. “He’s no longer the leader of the free world. I’ve never seen a president that was no longer that.”
The singer didn’t hesitate to critique the Democratic establishment either, suggesting that the current crop of left-wing leaders are low on young blood and good ideas. “They don’t have any cojones,” Armstrong said. “You look at what’s going on in the Democratic party, I look at some of the people talking, I’m like, I’m looking at you again?! It’s a bummer.”
“I met Joe Biden, he’s a nice guy–” Moore began.
“We don’t need nice guys any more,” Armstrong said firmly. “Nice guys finish last.” The crowd cheered furiously.
Armstrong was heartened by the response to the overtly political statements he made onstage during his most recent Green Day tour, which took him around the U.S. in support of the Revolution Radio album. “We played in Alabama; we played in Florida; we played in Wisconsin,” he explained, mentioning a series of states that helped elect Donald Trump president. “People know what they’re getting into when they come to a show, these are sold-out shows, and that is really hopeful for me. They’re not just going there for entertainment; they know what the lyrics are about… Literally people are using their voice and doing it in song and doing it together. There’ve been a couple times when I said, ‘Fuck you, Donald Trump.’ And when you hear coming out of 15,000 Alabamans, it’s a lot different from hearing it in California and New York.”
The singer also urged lefty voters to show that same level of enthusiasm during next year’s midterm elections. “That’s the bummer about a lot of liberals, they don’t vote during the off-elections – and demonstrate their power at the ballot box,” he said. “[My sons] look at it and they’re like, ‘We have Satan as the President of the United States.’ And I was like, ‘We’ve had Satan before, and we voted Satan out. Just remember that.'” Moore expressed a similar sentiment. “Every year, three million 18-year-olds are eligible to vote,” he noted. “That means, since Obama was elected in 2008, that’s 27 million [new voters], if we can reach them, encourage them, and let them have a say.”
After a few more Trump digs – “American Idiot must return to Times Square blocks away from the headquarters of the American Idiot,” Moore quipped, referring to the president’s New York Trump Tower home just 15 blocks north of the theater – Armstrong exited stage left, and Moore carried on with The Terms of My Surrender solo. But the singer couldn’t resist the siren call of “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” which soundtracked the show’s final scene: Moore agrees to do the thing he fears most, which is dance, in order to encourage the audience to face their own phobias and engage in politics. Armstrong returned to clap along to the beat with Moore and his chiseled friends, and then singer and director formed a short conga line and trooped off stage.