Hitler’s gas problem
How the Trump administration has ruined satire
I hate to analyse comedy (just kidding, I love it) but I was looking in the local newspaper for jobs in satire today and I couldn’t find any at all.
The reason for this worrying development seems to be that the world has actually gone mad, so any attempt to use “humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues,” has become obsolete.
This is because the usual targets of satire’s rapier blade are already producing high quality material themselves.
Take the recent statement from White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. You know, the one where he said even Hitler didn’t “descend to using chemical weapons.”
This is a great line — it sounds like it’s straight out of an Armando Iannucci script. Except it’s not, it’s straight out of the actual world we live in.
Somewhere out there, in a more realistic parallel universe, Armando Iannucci is sat at his typewriter, thinking:
What would the press secretary say about Assad using chemical weapons?
What if … what if it was something that comes off as antisemitic, since the administration have already been criticised for that? What if that was the joke- that the PR wing of the administration couldn’t stop compounding the problems they were supposed to be fixing?
So … Who’s famously antisemitic?
… Hitler …?
Yes! What if he makes some kind of ludicrous argument about Assad being worse than Hitler because Hitler never used chemical weapons, even though one of the things he’s most famous for is gassing millions of Jews?
It’s just believable enough that he would say something like that, because the average person with a keen and arguably slightly worrying interest in Hitler would know that he was against using gas as a military tactic, but might be likely to forget any specific details about the Holocaust when they recall the events of World War II.
He’s like the drunk old guy at a bar who’s desperate to expose everyone to his unsolicited opinion about Hitler not being that bad because he appreciated the countryside and he had a dog.
The thought process described above would never happen in the real world (not to be confused with ‘90s reality TV show, Real World, which Iannucci did actually write for during a particularly lean period) because Sean Spicer ALREADY SAID THAT.
Sorry for shouting, but I can’t help but feel slightly angry. You see, I was once a budding satirical writer, but Trump crushed my dreams with his tiny thumbs.
A couple of years ago I wrote a book called Kill Clarkson, which was set in a world in which Jeremy Clarkson had become the Prime Minister of the UK after emerging as a populist political candidate.
It was like a more juvenile and overlong episode of Black Mirror. I was reasonably happy with it at the time.
But what is it good for now? It would be like if in the next series of Black Mirror there was an episode about a politician called Simon Cocksmith who was exposed for sending images of his penis to women on social media and lost his job.
You’d think: err, hang on a minute. Didn’t that happen in real life but in an even more absurd way? Like, Anthony Weiner has a funnier name AND he was exposed for the same thing again a few months after he tried to return to politics. So … what’s the interesting take here?
Trying to sell a book that warns people about the dangers of populism by wondering what it would be like if Jeremy Clarkson was the British Prime Minister is a bit like if you turned on the news during a global nuclear winter and the weather forecaster was warning everyone to wear plenty of sunscreen at the beach.
On the bright side, Kill Clarkson was so titled because the story follows a hapless bunch of misfits who inadvertently become involved in a CIA plot to kill the prime minister, so perhaps Trump will continue to have a similarly bad relationship with intelligence agencies which is concluded before he manages to start a nuclear war with North Korea?
In the meantime, don’t forget to wear that sunscreen. I’m off to pursue a career in badinage.