Last week, at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, Comedy for Change held a special panel on the strange relationship between comics and the current US president. Or as Trump probably would have called it “the best panel in the history of panels before the largest audience ever gathered”.
We started out by wondering, what is it about the current US president that inspires satirists from almost every country on this planet? It won’t be a spoiler if I told you from the outset that unlike his view of the world — the answer here is complicated.
We were lucky to have an interesting group of comedy minds sharing their point of view. The panel included Family Guy’s, Kirker Butler; Dan Ilic, one of the leading satirists in Australia, and Caty Borum, the director of the Center for Media & Social Impact in Washington DC and author of the upcoming book: A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The (Serious) Role of Comedy in Social Justice.
Trying to analyze the uniqueness of the Trump phenomenon, Borum talked about the disappointment from mainstream-media that failed to see the danger of Trump winning and gave him endless airtime for his cheap provocations. This is especially true of the journalists who couldn’t resist his cartoonish character and instead of scrutinizing him just gave him more and more attention until finally they were shocked by the monster they created. It was only those living outside the television studios, and especially the comedians who traveled the country and felt the nation’s pulse - weren’t surprised on Nov 16’ when Trump won.
Borum shared a clip from the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner where Michelle Wolf roasted the media for reaping the benefits from the president’s crazy behavior.
Dan Ilic shared his experience at Trump’s inauguration. He disguised himself as a Russian reporter and asked the audience to thank President Putin for placing Trump at the White House, and numerous crowd members willingly obliged.
Another interesting point is that in these crazy times, a new kind of humor emerged, as Kirker Butler noted. Humor based on simply stating facts, as demonstrated in a clip from a recent episode they did about Trump on Family Guy. In the clip, Ivanka is merely stating crazy details about her business, her husband and the family history — and a choir steps in to sing “it’s all true”. The comedy is there because these facts are so outrageous that it subverts belief.
When reality has turned into a scary joke, is when comedy needs to become serious business. Together, we can make a change, one joke at a time.
We showed a clip of 15 Trumps from Finland to China, from Russia to Israel, each with a unique glimpse to the way the country perceives Mr. Trump.
A few fun facts:
- Li Liangwei, The Chinese impersonator doesn’t speak a word in English and his wig is gray (when asked about it — he didn’t see the problem).
- Rachel Mohlin, from Sweden, is actually a known female comic that did the impression to promote a feminine film festival.
- Udi Cagan, the Israeli one was instructed to do Trump in the voice of South Park’s Cartman.
For more, listen to the full panel here.