Recently, writer Mark Evanier made this suggestion after that Saturday Night Live sketch that set him off, the It’s a Wonderful Life “remake” —which “wasn’t even the harshest thing they’ve done about him.
“The cold open I’d like to see them do would go something like this: They’d have an Oval Office setting and they’d trot out all the usual players… — and right in the middle of it, Alec Baldwin stops in mid-sentence, everyone on stage freezes and Baldwin breaks character…
“He pulls off the wig, turns to everyone and says, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore. This man is no longer a clown to make fun of. This man is doing so much damage to the country I love and causing so much anxiety and pain among the poor and the non-white that I can’t make fun of his hair anymore. This is much more serious than that.’
“He walks off, the other cast members look at each other to ask ‘What do we do now?’ And then they all realize he’s right and they start pulling off their wigs and appliances and in unison, they tell the camera, ‘Live from New York…’ etc., and the show proceeds with no more Trump imitations. Until he’s no longer a threat.”
Evanier’s not wrong. The trick here for me is that it has already been done, three years ago. The Nightly Show, starring Larry Gilmore, which followed The Daily Show on Comedy Central, did this skit in December 2015.
In case you can’t see it in your country, actors Mike Yard and Ricky Velez each start doing a piece mocking Trump and then quit mid-skit, suggesting that the guy isn’t funny. Gilmore is initial “surprised” but then agrees that his cast is absolutely right. Unfortunately, The Nightly Show was canceled a few months later.
This is why the comic shows I watch that skewer Trump are, for my money, only purportedly funny. I’m not laughing ha-ha, only at the absurdity of the situation. If he’s upset when “idiot” is trending on Google, the humor factor is mitigated by the noise of him and his sycophants. As Ken Levine noted, “‘Pottersville’ – named after the evil businessman Mr. Potter – is our reality. The nightmare has come true.”
I think most of the late-night shows are “a sort of ‘laugh resistance'” against the regime. This IS quite useful and informative, especially from Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver. But some of them – Stephen Colbert being prime among them – I agree with philosophically yet I find usually unwatchable.
Variety suggests that the trick for the late-night hosts “is to make sure their content is fueled mostly by humor.” That is a fine line to track – be both funny and relevant.