Over the last several weeks—with the primaries over, and the form filing finished—it has been on to pure campaigning, where the reverend shines. He and the choir have been appearing, among other places, on subway lines, singing songs and handing out literature. And, as always, pastoring. (He is also the one who, in an act of civil disobedience, interrupted the mayoral debate, in which he was not invited to participate. “We voted for term limits!” he shouted to modest applause during Bloomberg’s opening remarks. “Why are you here? Why are you here?”) The campaign is based around serious issues of affordability, viability, gentrification, overdevelopment and consumerism, but gussied up in the trappings of raucous performance art.
“Politics is a very conservative, gestural play,” Billy tells me over cider at his dining room table. Within those parameters, there are a limited number of moves to make, like kissing babies. “Why not break open the theater a little bit?” he asked me. “Why not?”