Among late-night talk shows, past hosts such as David Letterman or Jay Leno always took potshots at people in news stories of the day, including politicians of every stripe. It was customary to poke fun at current affairs, and politicos on both the Right and the Left were fair game for their writers, as were many other issues and people.
But these days, with the new generation of late-night hosts, the humor now seems targeted at one end of the political spectrum only, with one man in particular drawing much of the comedic heat — President Donald Trump. Whereas previously, any faux pas or foot-in-mouth moments that Democrats might have suffered could have been used against them, it now seems that Hollywood’s agenda of perennially siding with the Left has taken over, and — as with much of the mainstream media — the humor has become particularly mean-spirited.
“Yeah, Trump is definitely taking things to a higher level,” host Stephen Colbert joked in September. “I’d say his support is… up there,” he said, doing an impression of a Nazi salute. “Right around here.” In another monologue, Colbert said that Trump had addressed the Boy Scouts recently because “he needs someone good at putting out fires.” Colbert mocked the Boy Scout oath, updating it with a ‘Trump version’ that he recited: “On my honor, I will do my best to make a tremendous amount of money and buy a sex yacht like the old guy the president knows. To keep myself physically strong with golf and steak and refer all questions to outside counsel.”
In August, Jimmy Kimmel addressed Trump supporters, telling them on the air, “Deep down inside, you know you made a mistake.” Kimmel joked that he had a plan to save America from Trump. It involved offering the president the job of King of America, then locking him inside his castle and losing the key.
Kimmel challenged Trump voters, “You know you picked the wrong guy. And it isn’t getting better — it’s getting worse. So you can do one of two things. You can dig in like Chris Christie at a Hometown Buffet, or you can treat the situation like you put Star Wars wallpaper up in the kitchen… ‘All right, I got caught up, I was excited, I made a mistake. And now it needs to go.'”
The typically more reserved Jimmy Fallon also got in on the act, claiming, “A 12-year-old boy was actually running one of Trump’s campaign offices in Colorado. When asked how an inexperienced child could be running things, the boy said, ‘Look, he’s the nominee, and we’re stuck with him.'” Fallon also stated that “A Donald Trump rally was delayed for nearly two hours yesterday due to fog. At one point the fog was so thick, Trump supporters couldn’t even see who they were punching.”
Cracked host Seth Meyers, “A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said yesterday that it can be difficult to negotiate with President Trump because it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. Also, if.” Meyers went on to state, “In an interview today, President Trump questioned why America fought the Civil War. Even worse, he then questioned whom America fought in the Civil War. ‘Wait, I know this one,’ Trump said. ‘Was it China?'”
Viewing these and other jokes, Trump asked via a tweet, “Late-night hosts are dealing with the Democrats for their very ‘unfunny’ & repetitive material, always anti-Trump… Should we get equal time?” and stated that “More and more people are suggesting that Republicans (and me) should be given equal time on TV when you look at the one-sided coverage.”
By “equal time,” Trump was referring to FCC rules that mandate equal exposure for candidates running for public office as far as coverage on public (over-the-air) television and radio stations. But in this respect, Trump wouldn’t be eligible for such equal time until he’s officially running for reelection in 2020, and even then, such coverage applies only to editorial airtime as opposed to entertainment programs such as late-night talk shows.
Mike DiCenzo, a producer and writer for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, responded to Trump’s remarks by rudely retorting via Twitter, “That’s not how it works. You’re not campaigning. You’re the president. Now kindly stop tweeting nonsense, and go do your job for once.”
Jimmy Kimmel mocked Trump by tweeting, “Excellent point Mr. President! You should quit that boring job — I’ll let you have my show ALL to yourself #MAGA!”
Of course, DiCenzo and Kimmel were ignoring the recent visits President Trump made to Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, where he comforted victims of the horrific situations that have afflicted people in both those places.
Meanwhile, a recent study by researchers at George Mason University found that President Trump was integrated into the punch line of more jokes — over 1,000 in total — in late-night programming during his first 100 days in office than any of his presidential predecessors.
By comparison, 946 jokes were made about former President Obama in his entire first year in office, and just 546 jokes were made about ex-President George W. Bush in the same time frame. In addition, a study by the Pew Research Center found that just 5 percent of all mainstream media coverage of Trump was positive, proving that Trump is entirely correct about media and network bias.
Meanwhile, the late-night jokes have only continued. “Anthropologists have released more information about a recently discovered extinct human species,” quipped Conan O’Brien. “We’re finding out all this really cool stuff. They say the species lived in trees, had brains the size of an orange, and plans to vote for Donald Trump for president… President Trump also said he would be honored to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump said, ‘He’s my kind of guy — he’s crazy, he’s overweight and he has a ridiculous haircut. We should get together!'”
Of course, what O’Brien didn’t say is if the writers for all these late-night shows are getting together themselves to share jokes — or if they’ve just come to an agreement that there will only be one target for their humor for the next four (or eight) years. For the sake of quality entertainment and for the dignity of the office of the president, we can only hope these writers run out of material long before then.