By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.
On October 15, CNN conducted a short interview with Jimmy Kimmel about hosting a late-night show. After they asked him how comedy as a late-night host has changed over fifteen years, he let out an exasperated response.
“I think late-night comedy has changed, and I have been a part of that. I think Jon Stewart was really definitely the person who lit that fire, and then of course Trump coming in made us all feel like we’re in an emergency situation,” The comedian said,
“Also, the news of the day, every day, is about Donald Trump. I always look at my job as someone who comments on the news of the day. You go to dinner and it’s all people talk about. It used to be everyone talked about Netflix all the time. That’s been replaced by Donald Trump.”
Such is the terrible paradox that is late-night television currently. When Donald Trump first hit the Presidential scene in 2015, he was overwhelmingly written off as a joke with no chance at winning.
However, the more exposure one gets, the more legitimate their views seem, and that’s exactly what happened. It didn’t help that liberal late-night hosts like Jimmy Fallon, and, Jimmy Kimmel, had him on their show too. By the end of 2016, The New York Times reported that Trump received two billion dollars in free media, hundreds of millions more than any other Presidential candidate.
Now, late-night hosts are forced to reap what they sow and in an even worse fashion. Before they had the option to not focus on Trump, like they did with Bernie Sanders and the other GOP candidates, now it is a lot harder considering he is our President.
This all comes back to Kimmel’s lament that all people talk about now is Donald Trump.
Of course, whoever the President is will surely get a huge amount of coverage for obvious reasons. However, late-night hosts also bring topics to millions of people so there is a cycle to what gets brought to the national conversation that then gets discussed “at the dinner table”.
Barack Obama was our President for eight years, but late-night hosts didn’t endlessly talk about him to the point of fatigue. There are always other things going on or at the very least more important issues than dunking on Trump every day and every week.
Also, all because the President says something stupid, does not mean you have to discuss it. If anything, it comes off as lazy writing when everyone is making fun of such an easy target. Enough goes on in Washington every week that there is no reason to make multiple jokes about Trump spelling ‘covfefe’, but Kimmel had numerous sketches on that alone last year. Other late-night hosts have been able to avoid tired Trump jokes through ingenuity or a general distaste for Trump jokes anyways. Bill Maher consistently includes Trump in his monologue, but he also skewers Democrats in a way that others do not. John Oliver and Jim Jefferies also discuss Trump every now and then, but mainly focus on highlighting issues that are swept under the rug. Some shows, like Conan O’Brien’s, don’t try to be a news outlet as much as a comedy show, so their Donald Trump lampoons aren’t as constant nor a main fixture of the show.
Newspapers gleefully called Trump a comedian’s best friend since there would be so many gaffes to make fun of, but Kimmel and other hosts have shown that Trump is really a comedic crutch. While it is easy to lob jokes about a President who used to host a reality show, the reality is that they would all be doing us a service if they cut down on the Trump jokes and brought up more important matters.