Political satire and comedy have always been an integral part of U.S. Presidential elections in the recent era; American comedians have often guided voters through confusing and challenging times in an election and made light of situations. There is information coming at us from all directions, and an election year can be quite maddening. Comedians strive to help us make sense of it all and smile a little in the process. This year’s presidential race is no different, but it has definitely been one of the most interesting elections to watch unfold.
New York, the center of all things comedy, has seen a stark rise in the interest in onstage political comedy, because of the spike in interest in the presidential race this year. The heavy media coverage of the two frontrunners has only added more fuel to the fire. In fact, comedy club owners think that if Donald Trump is elected as president, it would be dream run for them and the comedians (at a terrible cost though). The absurdity of the election has created good business for comedians and provided them with endless material.
Donald Trump has certainly provided comedians with useful material since he was declare the Republican nominee. Saturday Night Live welcomed its 41st season with a jibe at Trump; Taran Killam donned the role of Trump on the show, and more recently, Alec Baldwin appeared with a hilarious rendition of the nominee. Melania Trump was not forgotten in the sketch; Cecily Strong did a great job portraying Mrs. Trump. When comedians imitate/mock candidates like Trump, it just reinforces the image of Trump that many voters have in mind. For instance, Trump is known for not delving into the finer details whenever questions about national policies are put out to him. On Saturday Night Live, Trump was also seen following in his own footsteps: when asked about his plans as president, he answered, “You want to know my plan? Here’s my plan: ‘I got the smartest guys.’” A good amount of time was also dedicated to Trump’s constant efforts to villainize the Latino community.
Then, there was John Oliver’s masterstroke against the Donald Trump campaign. In an incredibly honest episode that set out to critically analyze the popularity of Donald Trump, Oliver credited Trump last and implied many negative things about his business acumen as well. The best part of the show was the revelation that Trump’s original family name was Drumpf. He urged the American people to vote for the man that he is and not for the illusion of grandeur that his last name creates. Such was the popularity of the episode that Donald Drumpf became the second-most Googled candidate name. Even Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio could not match the popularity of Donald Drumpf! The only name with more searches than Donald Drumpf was Donald Trump.
However, Trump is a comedian’s conundrum too; the satire is lost on him. There’s no way comedians can come up with any exaggeration to make the joke memorable, because Trump is truly the over-dramatized version of himself, and many people cannot believe he’s actually a nominee. Trump has been all over the news and comedy circuits for his antics, mannerisms, and of course, his toupee. But there are times when comedians do not have to work on making jokes to mock him – his own words are enough. In fact, Democrats may want Trump to be in the news as a butt of jokes, which ensures he is projected as a joker rather than a serious presidential nominee. Whether this strategy works in their favor or backfires will be hard to say because jokes on Trump don’t stick. Appearance after appearance, he outdoes himself on the comedy front, while his supporters cheer away.
Hillary Clinton has been on the radar of the comedians as well, but she is no match for all the entertainment Donald Trump satire has to offer. Most jokes on her have pointed at her stance on different matters of national interest, or about her marriage rather than her appearance. Gilbert Gottfried recently jibed, “What punishment should she get for her conduct in the email scandal? Probably the guillotine….” One of the best impersonations of Clinton was delivered by the talented Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live. Comedian Camille Theobald joked about the candidates recently in NYC, and gave some valuable insight on the role of comedians in the election process, and called them ‘society’s truth tellers.’ She said it was their job to make significant issues interesting, so that potential voters will actually pay attention.
The 2016 election is probably the most insane and interesting race to the presidency that America has seen in ages. On one side, there’s Trump, a treasure chest of jokes with his ridiculous behavior. Then there’s Clinton, whose supporters are ready to heckle comedians who make fun of her. However, that will clearly not stop comedians from taking shots at the Presidential candidates – Americans, enjoy the humor while it lasts.