We heard this same song during the Obama era. Comedians were at a loss for material to serve as a basis of presidential humor. Obama, the common explanation went, is just too cool or smart to poke fun at. In fact, if you tried, you did so at your own peril:
There’s something disquieting about the way the comedic class has treated President Barack Obama. The phrase “kid gloves” comes to mind, but that doesn’t quite cover it. Obama’s status as a trailblazer combined with a resurgence of political correctness and the fact that he, frankly, holds the political biases of most comedians has placed the presidency more or less off-limits for harsh treatment. It has become dangerous even to draw a caricature of the president: one wrong move, no matter your liberal bona fides, and you’re branded a racist.
Obviously, there was a mountain of material — corpseman, Cinco de Cuatro, the Bavarian language, throwing like a girl — but the laugh providers were blinded by their loyalty to the man and admiration of his far-left political views.
Now there is a new president, one who is the antithesis of Obama. So is the comedic class happy? Surely, your jest.
Conan O’Brien was interviewed Friday by Jake Tapper to help promote an upcoming special and was asked, “What’s the biggest challenge being a comedian in the Age of Trump?”
Here’s O’Brien’s answer:
Comedians, usually in a normal era, are supposed to take these serious situations and find the comedy in them and stretch them a little bit. In the Trump era, we’re essentially dealing with — I mean, every day there is such a mother lode of, I don’t know how else to say it, surreal news.
It’s very hard to find a joke that’s more absurd than what’s actually happening. It’s really hard to take what’s happening right now and make it somehow more absurd than it really is. So it’s a challenge for comics. people think it’s easy but it’s actually a little more difficult I think right now.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) January 26, 2018
O’Brien is actually revealing more about himself and other comedians than he is about Donald Trump. As Ben Bowles observed:
When liberals try to be funny, they end up sounding bitter and oftentimes obscene, which other libs go ape for. An example was Stephen Colbert’s observation that “the only thing” the president’s “mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c*ck holster.” The live audience at the Ed Sullivan Theater went wild.
This is not to say that Trump never says or does things that are unintentionally funny. Saying that he didn’t would be as disingenuous as saying that Obama never did.
What has comedians’ tongues nowadays is not a lack of comedic gold. It is an inability to put petty political differences aside long enough to see it for what it is.