Funnyman Seth Meyers of SNL fame struggled to contain his trademark grin as he almost apologetically shredded President Donald Trump’s turbulent news conference on Thursday night.
“It’s racist to assume all black people know each other,” said Meyers, referencing Trump’s request that Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan set up a meeting with him and the Congressional Black Caucus. “You don’t know all orange people. Hey, Donald, can you set up a meeting with Snooki and the Lorax? You can talk about trees and tanning.”
Comedian Stephen Colbert also commented on the news conference during a bit on CBS’ “Late Show,” which he hosts.
“It was a robust one hour and 17 minutes long. That is beefy. So beefy, you could eat it with a fork. But you’re going to want to use a spoon to get every drop of the crazy,” said Colbert, discussing the conference’s domination of the news that day.
President Trump and his staff have also found themselves the targets of near constant mockery on “Saturday Night Live,” where every statement made by Trump or Press Secretary Sean Spicer is sure to be parodied.
With the current state of politics blurring the line between reality and satire, comedians have found themselves with a unique opportunity to use comedy in order to address the growing sense of anxiety that is gripping the country.
Aasif Mandvi, a longtime correspondent of “The Daily Show,” is aware of the perspective gained by blending comedy with serious topics such as politics.
“There’s a resonance that happens with humor, you can deal with really important or difficult topics and via humor it’s an access point,” said Mandvi on a segment with Viewpoints Radio. “You know what we do a lot on The Daily Show is we point out the hypocrisy in things, and that allows people to relate to it.”
However, while these talk shows and late-night programs have embraced the almost constant stream of material supplied by the Trump administration, the world of stand-up comedy has found itself torn between the need to deliver relevant material and the moral dilemma that is Donald Trump.
Jen Kirkman, who performs stand-up comedy and has a special on Netflix, feels no enthusiasm at the prospect of joking about Trump.
“I don’t want to normalize this like Jimmy Fallon did by rubbing Trump’s head. This isn’t a joke and people are hurting,” Kirkman told reporters at Vulture, referencing Trump’s appearance on The Tonight Show during the campaign. “Jokes about Trump aren’t enough. Many comedians, especially women, have always been political and most of us got harassed daily. None of us are excited about comedy because of Trump and anyone who is is scum.”
While many comedians agree with Kirkman that the rise of Trump is bittersweet to the profession, several continue to see it as their duty to include jokes about him in their acts, no matter how distasteful.
“Comedians must not back down. Trump is terrifying but also comedy gold,” said comedian Maysoon Zayid in the Vulture story. “He’s a bully who can dish it out but can’t take it. It is our duty as Americans to mock him until he breaks. It’s also our job to speak the truth when others fear doing so.”
At the We Stand United Rally held on January 19th outside of the Trump International Hotel, director Michael Moore implored listeners to form “an army of comedy” in order to combat the Trump administration, drawing attention to the President’s notoriously thin skin.
“He’s affected by comedy!” Moore said. “If you make fun of him, if you ridicule him, or if you just show that he’s not popular … I’m telling you, my friends, this is how he’ll implode.”
Despite facing backlash from Trump supporters, it is clear that comedians have grown more political, and will likely continue to do so over at least the next four years. By doing so, they are able to strike back against not only perceived attacks on them, but on the audiences that they entertain.
Hosts like Colbert, who forged their comedic reputations in political satire, are clearly not backing down from the challenge.
“Actually, sir, Barack Obama got 365 electoral votes in 2008, you only got 306,” said Colbert, in response to Trump’s claim that he had the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. “Wait. Do you think 306 is larger than 365? Wow, Betsy DeVos works quick!”