The 2016 election was the first Presidential election I was old enough to vote in, and throughout that period I found myself caring a lot about what late night comedians had to say about politics. It’s not that I wanted them to tell me what to think; rather, I truly believed that the satire of comedians like Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver would have a tangible effect at swinging voters towards Hillary.
When John Oliver popularized the nickname “Drumpf,” in March of 2016 on a Last Week Tonight segment, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was kind of hyped for it. I downloaded that browser extension that would transform every instance of the word “Trump” that would show up on my screen into “Drumpf,” thinking that I was taking part in something important.
Of course, I quickly realized that the whole “Drumpf” thing was, well, kind of lame. Trump supporters weren’t fazed by it in the slightest, and Trump’s popularity only grew from there. I would continue to watch late night TV, as these comedians would search for new ways to show exactly how terrible Donald Trump actually was. Sometimes the criticism felt stale or weak, but sometimes it legitimately did feel like insightful, biting satire. It was hard for me to imagine someone watching Alec Baldwin’s performance in SNL’s first Presidential Debate parody and not begrudgingly admitting to themselves, “Alright, I guess Trump is pretty terrible.”
We all know how this turned out. Despite a year’s worth of mockery from Hollywood comedians, Trump won. Afterward, I kept watching a lot of these late night political commentary shows, but not because I still had any illusions of their ability to change anyone’s minds.
Rather, I found them to be a source of comfort in the terrifying aftermath of the election. It felt like the country was spiraling towards authoritarianism, and I didn’t feel like the actual mainstream news channels or newspapers were doing an effective job covering it. CNN and MSNBC may have had reputations for being liberal networks, but they still couldn’t refer to Trump’s lies as what they were: lies. In the name of journalistic integrity, they referred to his…