Political Comedy Isn’t Funny Anymore, And We’re All Paying For It

By Robert Scucci | Published

I’m not trying to get all political here (okay, I am), but I can’t stand the current state of political comedy because it’s not funny anymore. Maybe I’m romanticizing the past or getting more cynical as I get older (probably both), but I remember a time when comedians would actually write jokes that made us think while also helping us understand a different viewpoint instead of resorting to name-calling and manufacturing outrage. Not only has political humor suffered from a disappointing lack of hilarity, we’re all suffering because we’re all sitting here thinking to ourselves, “where’s the funny part?”

Reading Tweets Isn’t Comedy

I was watching Late Night With Seth Meyers while visiting my parents not too long ago, and he was railing on Donald Trump during his opening monologue (as talk-show hosts do), and I didn’t laugh once. My profound lack of laughter wasn’t because I’m a Trump supporter (I’m not), but because Meyers wasn’t making any jokes. We’ve gotten to a point where talk-show hosts and comedians simply read a Tweet or take an out-of-context sample from an interview, raise their eyebrow at the camera, and say, “really?”

How The Great Have Fallen

There are two institutions that are responsible for the demise of political comedy: Saturday Night Live, and social media.

Growing up, Saturday Night Live would relentlessly make fun of whoever was in office, and take serious (and hilarious) shots in ways that were so creative that you couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. Phil Hartman would do his best Bill Clinton impression, stuff his face with McDonald’s, and wail on his saxophone while talking policy as spectators stood there in disbelief, and it was inherently good comedy. It didn’t matter what side of the aisle you were on because the comedy was critical of some of Clinton’s problematic behavior but also clever enough to stick the landing.

After the 2016 election, political comedy on Saturday Night Live devolved into Alec Baldwin simply puckering up his face, throwing on a wig, and walking around quoting things Donald Trump said in real life while waiting for the “applause” sign to light up. It was funny for a while, but after months of the same shtick it just seemed like the writers were just getting lazy.

Might As Well Watch Carrot Top

As for political comedy on social media, the algorithm either leads its users to an echo-chamber of like-minded individuals who are perpetually outraged by their opposition, or a hostile environment full of misdirected rage coming from said opposition. While doom-scrolling, I saw a video of a pug riding on a skateboard, which is supposed to be cute and funny, and it didn’t take long before users devolved into making “typical Biden supporter,” or “typical Trump supporter” comments.

I may be grasping at straws here, but the dumbing down of political comedy that’s found on shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show has had a negative influence on everybody’s sense of humor and made everything worse. We’re talking about fruit that’s hanging so low on the joke tree that you may as well just watch Chairman of the Board and watch Carrot Top fall down and make fart noises instead.

We All Used To Be In On The Joke

When Trey Parker and Matt Stone were working on That’s My Bush, they used the presidency as a vehicle for political comedy that was such a heartfelt and clever wink and nudge to everybody in on the joke that you couldn’t help but love it. It didn’t matter if you loved or absolutely despised George W. Bush and everything he stood for; it was a well-rounded satire that tackled partisan issues with verve and enthusiasm in way that I haven’t seen in our current political climate. Critical issues from both sides of the aisle were addressed and held under scrutiny, all while the president was portrayed as a bumbling moron who was way in over his head.

Please Just Be Funny

I know I’m probably giving off some serious “old man yells at cloud” vibes right now, but political comedy used to be comedy. No longer laughing and better understanding each other through humor, we’ve sharpened our teeth and go straight for the jugular instead of stopping and realizing that we’re all in this together. I love railing on politicians (all kinds) as much as the next person, but all I ask is that comedians use the venom they so clearly have in their hearts to actually write some jokes.