Comedians Can Be the End of Trump
Just last night, the President showed once again that he can be swayed by what he watches on TV, when he tweeted that he would “send in the Feds” (thereby violating the 10th Amendment) in response to a graphic Bill O’Reilly had shown regarding gun violence in Chicago.
In an age where the President of the United States cares more about TV ratings than Syrian refugees, it’s the TV world that will save us all. Specifically, comedians. The President’s peculiar need to be loved on TV, and by the TV community, is highlighted by his reactions to negative portrayals of himself and his policies. One only needs to look at his obsession with Saturday Night Live, or further back, his feud with “Modern Family” writer Danny Zuker.
During the campaign, political comedians like John Oliver and Trevor Noah repeatedly went after Trump, even as other media outlets aided his rise to power, from news media giving him free airtime, to comedians like Jimmy Fallon giving him cutesy, humanizing interviews. Even SNL, which is now emerging as a key resistance vehicle, was complicit — they allowed him to host, long after he had disparaged Mexicans as rapists, and contemplated a ban on immigration based on religion. But Oliver and Noah had a number of things fighting against them: they’re not on major networks, they’re viewed as extreme left-wingers, and, perhaps most tellingly, they’re both foreign-born.
Since the election, Oliver has been on hiatus, and other shows have picked up the slack. Seth Meyers, once the head writer for SNL and the Late Night host on NBC, the network that is most complicit in Trump’s rise to power, has repeatedly been critical of Trump. In a blistering interview with Trump propagandist Kellyanne Conway, Meyers called out the White House counselor for dodging questions and pivoting away from answering anything. It was a turning point in how the press covers this administration. Soon after, mainstream outlets began referring to falsehoods being peddled by the communications arm of the White House as “Lies,” something they seemed unwilling to do prior to the Meyers interview. Who knows if that was cause and effect, but it’s now a daily occurrence — the administration can’t get through a single day without being dragged to the carpet for lying to the public.
And it’s not just Meyers. Stephen Colbert, the once hyper-political comedian whose style had since been neutered a bit by virtue of working for a larger network with a broader appeal, has begun attacking Trump policies both on his show and on twitter. Conan O’Brien has begun using twitter to call out the President as well, with Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden’s twitter accounts getting in on the action occasionally.
It needs to continue. It needs to grow. Journalists will do what they can, and we may all one day be thanking a new generation of Woodward and Bernsteins for uncovering the damning documents that will lead to impeachment, but until then, they are being actively lied to by the White House, while the President’s spokesperson undermines their industry by claiming that OANN and Lifezette should count as anything other than the tabloids that they are. He’s even employing multiple staffers from Breitbart, a news organization once so far outside of the mainstream that they thought Milo Yiannopoulos was employable.
The president can’t undermine the comedy world in that way. All he can do is claim that it’s a biased, elitist, out-of-touch industry — but he can’t stop them from speaking the truth. There’s no way to silence them, no Breitbart of comedy to shift attention to. It’s the industry who can expose the man for what he is: a narcisstic schoolyard bully, who happens to be a billionaire.
Mainstream comedians like Judd Apatow and Mike Birbiglia have risked altering their middle-america appeal by taking to twitter and vocally opposing this President, but resisting via social media is not enough. Every comedian with a platform: from nightly talk shows, to scripted sitcoms, to feature films, all the way down to the guy playing a free show at the back of a bar in Brooklyn. Every single one should be fighting Trump. The Big Bang Theory should do an episode about Raj being afraid of deportation. Modern Family should do an episode about Cam and Mitchell’s child being taken away. Silicon Valley should do an episode on the government demanding customer information. It should be a barrage of satire, all the time, covering all angles. A true despot would be able to deflect this barrage, but Trump isn’t that: he’s an insolent child who needs to be reprimanded. His own aides won’t stop talking about how he watches TV when he’s bored, which is all the time, and we know empirically that he responds to what he sees on TV. It will get results.
Contrary to popular belief, the real estate business did not create Donald Trump. There have been plenty of Real Estate magnates, including many who were far more successful than Trump, who never became famous. The entertainment industry created this monster; it should be the entertainment industry that brings him down.