Rhetoric of Comedy, Trump, and Politics

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Many scholars have devoted their attention to the effect that the media has on the way that events, people, behaviors, and situations are interpreted (Burke, 1984, Hill, 2013, Madsen, 1993). The mainstream media has considerable influence on the ways of society with how much time daily is devoted by the average American to regularly watching it whether it is for entertainment or news purposes. When however, entertainment comments on the news, say as in the 2016 presidential election by making fun of candidates, a new degree of affect is achieved as comedy and commentary come together. This happens likely as a product of both intentions to make audiences laugh as well as the desire to insert news on to the scene which is spun by the creative comedy of writers and performance actors. Such was certainly the case for South Park’s “Where My Country Gone?” wherein Donald Trump actually won presidency but in Canada instead of the United States. There can be no mistake about the very political aim of the South Park writers in this episode since they spoof not only the president but themselves as well by literally using Canadian voters who have voted Trump into presidency to tell of the perils their use of comedy had in getting him elected. An examination of the show’s mockery of Trump, as well as several other comedic endeavors from Saturday Night Live as well as the Daily Show, and the way they failed to stop him from realizing presidency is necessary to help make the conclusion that Comedy does not actually have as influential value on society as some researchers have supposed that it does. In light of this evidence, there may be a new appraisal for the role of comedy in society and media in general since both pitted Trump as an underdog in many ways to Clinton.

Literature Review


The 2016 was a far different election than many that the United States of America have had so far. The issues of the lay people and the challenges of the country have compiled to make the 2016 election one with higher stakes than ever with foreign policies, energy solutions, environmental responsibility, Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Transgender agendas, corporate dominance, and human rights being more at the forefront of this election than previous. The candidates for the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, were the Left and Right’s representatives in the democratic and republic parties. The emergence of Trump and Clinton as the Nation’s main choices as president is quite remarkable given that Hillary, if elected, would be the Nation’s first female president while Trump is a business tycoon reality television star known for an outrageous personality. Since Trump is the clear winner of the election, it is his background that is worth reviewing in part so that the comments about his campaign and prospect of presidency, made while he still was vying for the power of presidency can be better comprehended.

Comedic Theory

"Developing a Normative Approach to Political Satire: A Critical Perspective." Megan R. Hill

Within the Hill article, the establishment of political satire as actually being able send an important political message is gauged by the researcher for its understanding on behalf of audiences. Hill’s main focus is on the fake news pundits from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Her analysis is regarding how and whether audiences could get that what Jon Stewart is saying about a major political event, such as the bombings in Syria, would be realized a serious matter or just a joke. By comparing the factual segments with the satirical ones, Hill proceeds to make conclusions that more people than not felt that the show was a legitimate place for getting news and that the host was seriously reporting news. Jon Stewart, though an actor-comedian, is perceived as genuinely sharing the stories that he talks about rather than just making fun of it. This conclusion is precisely the one this report needs to confirm the assertion that Trump should, by all accounts of his widespread discrediting on comedic news outlets, have not won.

“The comic frame as a corrective to bureaucratization: a dramatist perspective on argumentation.” Arnie J. Madsen’

With this essay, author Madsen discusses how it is helpful to sometimes couch biting criticisms inside a ‘Dramatist perspective’ so that the message can be better accepted than as a polarized political message. This is especially true when a ‘status quo’ exists regarding a particular subject since with the ‘dramatist perspective’ an ulterior frame may be put into the issue giving perspective where before there was a missing connection. This type of reasoning suits well the hypothesis that anti-Trump comedy should have had more of an effect than it did for it was almost always given with a dramatist degree of performance. Trump is maybe thought to represent the status quo of the political arena by many and so skits and aired TV since by many estimations he just got into power through his bureaucratic, corporate, and economic connections.

“Attitudes Towards History.” Kenneth Burke

The Attitudes Toward History from Burke is a book that gives context to the role of Comedy in society. He compares the force of comedy as a being a highly civilized form of art that may lead to immense consequences in society, especially when there are dangers and disagreements waiting to be hatched by the right kind of emotional depth charge. Comedy is unique in that its morals are derived, positively or negatively from stupidity. Stupidity is usually either the villain of comedy or rather the modus of the protagonist who is an innocent-fool that may save some corrupt fate or situation. Comedy furthermore requires intensive forensic complexity so that they develop their plot as a vision of man in society which is distinct from tragedy which deals with the cosmic man. The difference between the two reiterates how very important the ‘frames of acceptance’ are within are as strategies for delivering comedic messages like the ones that have yet to be received by society. The frames of acceptance may be helpful for understanding the comedic behavior of social commentators who have framed Trump as a buffoon since it is one way of dealing with the society man that is Trump.

“Standing Up for Comedy: Kenneth Burke and The Office.” Biebel, Brett.

In this article from Biebel, the discussion about Burke’s frames of acceptance and rejection are valued in context of The Office a hit TV show that discusses many of the issues impacting white-collar, corporate work environment. This discussion about the Comic frames is useful for it discusses how rejection and acceptance for a topic may be laid through frames that use the subtle or overt transformation agendas within media. A key use of these frames is the easing of difficult concepts into a lens of acceptance so that people may cope better with a particular historical circumstance.

Burke’s ideas about the frames are particularly geared towards tragedy, a theme many in the media have charged the recent acquisition of Trump as candidate and now as President as being. Frames of acceptance may be used most specifically in tragedy for they can ease the pain of tragedy while simultaneously being used to change the social conditions. He states that one of the key themes in the Frames of Acceptance are that writers usually give their characters an essential criminality so that there is a placement of human struggle in the context of an inherent evil which is in turn a part of a universal struggle. This relates well in the way that Donald Trump is known to be for it is a common assertion that he is a corporate puppet who has criminal leanings from his sexual promiscuity and other poor behaviors. The frames may also distort certain factors to enhance the interpretive frame being looked at so that it is shown as an “apparent totality function as an actual partiality” (Biebel, 2010).

You Must Be Joking: The Sociological Critique of Humor and Comic Media. Lockyer & Pickering.

In this essay, the social validity and efficacy of humor is analyzed in the context of media performances given by British comedy as well as the antics of Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G and Borat), as well as the Danish cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. These analyses do well to show that humor can and is taken seriously even in situations where it is spoofing something. The writers here state that humor is not a trivial force but an integral aspect of social relationships. This finding reinforces the conclusion that humor is a social force which again gives greater allure towards understanding why Donald has one presidency even though he was ridiculed regularly by in many comedic avenues.

Humor as an Abrasive or lubricant in social situations: Martineau revisited. Janes and Olson.

In this study, Janes and Olson test the hypothesis that people will respond negatively to ‘jeer pressure’, a side effect of comedic entertainment, in social situations. Experiments were made through experiments involving the display of videotapes with or without deprecating humor which were then followed by assessment tasks. It is found that due to comedic deprecating humor, people will conform to the opinions of others for fear of standing out and need to keep the status quo. These finding should help to confirm the hypothesis that comedy about Donald Trump should have increased social prejudices towards supporting him and thus retarded his chances of winning.

Taking Late Night Comedy Seriously: How Candidate Appearances on Late Night Television Can Engage Viewers. Parkin

The influence of late-night television is a critical hinge of this essay’s hypothesis regarding the anti-Trump comedy that preceded his victory in the 2012 election. According to Michael Parkin candidate’s late-night interviews are shown to engage otherwise politically disinterested audiences and even motivate these people to reevaluate their attitudes and behaviors towards policy information and more. These results are obtained through an examination of John Kerry’s 2004 appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Late Night Comedy is thus a very pivotal aspect of public relations for candidates that likely can be tapped by candidates for improving their approval ratings or, just as likely, the reverse, that candidates may be harmed through the catalyzing effect of Late-Night Comedy. While Trump himself is never formally interviewed on Saturday Night Live, the actor who impersonates him, Alec Baldwin, may ‘Fool’ audiences all the same into believing many of the loosely based impressions he crafts about Trump.

Don’t’ Expect Too Much! Learning from Late-Night Comedy and Knowledge Item Difficulty. Baek, and Wojcieszak.

In this experiment, Baek and Wojceszak study and discuss how Late-Night Comedy may influence audiences, especially in regards to their education, for key political situations. Using the National Annenberg Election Study from 2004, the authors test audiences with an item response theory that synthesizes individual characteristics, knowledge item difficulty, and response format to find whether any education was occurring while watching Late Night Comedy for variety of key issues ranging from candidates, economics, foreign affairs, general knowledge, and social topics. Of all these, candidate issues had one of the largest effect seizes, reaching over .033 percent showing a positive relationship between the comedy and knowledge of candidates. The only difficulty in this measurement was that knowledge was mostly for surface level facts. Nevertheless, Late Night Comedy that painted Trump as an idiot should have made an impact on audiences to some degree for there is conclusive evidence that audiences learn of serious matters from Late Night shows even when they are designed to be funny.

Late Night Comedy’s influence on the American political system has been growing over the years with rising fan basis and more politically targeted humor. This report examines how these shows may prime election campaigns by giving audiences ulterior perceptions of candidates. A Pew Research Center poll shows that 47 percent of Americans under the age of 30 years old get campaign their news from late night shows thereby showing the highly popular and influential nature of late-night TV. Researchers suggest that the influential value of the humor is attributed to Joke content, character evaluations, and third-person viewing of situations. Priming can occur as Late-Night Comedies further agendas through the strategic placement of politically charged material to increase salience regarding those items to audience members. Priming may occur in two distinct ways. The first occurs as matters and situations are primed through comedy while the second happens as candidates themselves are targeted by the Late-Night Comedy shows. The priming effects studied suggest that audiences, more so than non-audiences, are likely to base perceptions on the night comedy. The significance of priming for anti-Trump comedy shows that while making fun of him, there is a double attack occurring as comedy shows make fun not only of him but also as they make fun of some of his policy agendas.

Trump Synopsis

Donald John Trump was born in 1946, Queens, New York to a very wealthy father, Frederick Trump (Donald Trump Biography, 2016). Stardom really took off for Trump when, little over a decade ago, when he stared in his own hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, which he would gain fame from as he chose which contestants he believed were the most business worthy to be his apprentice. This NBC series showed Trump off to the world and helped to popularize his catch his phrase “You’re fired” (Donald Trump Biography, 2016). So successful was this television show that it has been given its own spin off the Celebrity Apprentice. It is natural to see why Trump was consistently given poor criticisms from the media along the campaign trail, he is quite different from the usual politician, even though he has some very major ties to big business. In The Truth about Trump, it is said that his 2016 running was based, successfully and mainly, on fears that the voter population carried which were to be solved by Trumps directed action. These included the fear of Islamist extremists, that of illegal immigrants, unemployment, and crime for which he vowed to be more aggressive with terrorist, build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and make Mexico pay for it, deport 11 million undocumented Immigrants and use the death penalty more widely. (D’Antonio, 2016).

Even though some of these agendas seem to be extreme, many other behaviors Trump is known for could be seen as even worse. Although fabrication of statistics in order to win approval is not uncommon for politicians, Trump is reported to have given many a fake statistic in his campaign regarding matters that are not only politically sensitive but personally as well. For instance, he has been quoted at one Trump rally saying that black assailants were responsible for 81 percent of murders of white Americans however FBI statistics from 2014, state that 82 percent of whites are in fact killed by whites (O’Brien, 2016). The confliction of these messages helps to reiterate why Trump has been such a polarizing character along the 2016 campaign trail.

He has admirable traits too which certainly have played a role in the 2016 election nomination he received from the Republic party. Calling for accountability among top C.E.O. oil companies is one such policy plan that Trump actually makes a little sense about. He discusses how the oil crises here in America is a total rip off since the Oil companies are making off with higher profits than ever while the people pay $85 dollars a barrel. Since these companies ‘owe their existence to the United States’ both in birth and protection since it is the U.S. who is investing countless dollars into oil producing Middle Easter countries, they need to be held more accountable (Trump, 2011). The manner by which he has suggested this accountability should be enforced is likely the most suspect thing about Trump. Trump’s rallies have been described as demagogic like and frightening by some who notice how regularly he is to cast out those who disagree with his Agenda (Kranish and Fisher, 2016).

Furthermore, his conduct towards women is also a hot issue as Trump is known for acting with sexually permissive and abusive behavior in inappropriate situations. For example, in 2016 a large article broke on the Associated Press’s website in early October in 2012 with the star was incredibly lewd and sexist to his cast, especially women. The TV show hosts crew member broke the story around the time of the election with stories about how he would like to have sex with certain show contestants as well as how they had desired breast and butt sizes (Burke, 2016). Most a grievously has also said that women are “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals”. Markedly, Trump is known to have called Miss Universe Alicia Machado ‘Miss Piggy’ since she gained weight during her reign as miss Universe (Huddleston, 2016).

Donald Trump Comedy

South Park

One of the most brutal of comedic commentaries on Donald Trump is given by South Park, history’s longest running animated TV shows after the Simpsons. This show, known for its out of bounds take on just about every cultural phenomenon under the sun, spared no punches when it came to Donald Trump who has now been featured in at least 2 episodes in some way related to the 2016 Presidency. The first of those is the second episode in season 19 “Where my Country Gone?”. In this episode, the townspeople of South Park, specifically Mr. Garrison, the elementary school teacher, are lamenting the arrival of a large amount of undocumented Canadian immigrants who have stormed the country, in a way that is reminiscent of the immigrant situation from Mexico. Garrison takes the show’s lead in the episode for the majority of its air time as he proceeds to talk about his plans for the illegal Canadian immigrants, a main idea being the creation of a “Canadian Wall” between them and Americans. This where the references to Trump begin as this has been one of his main political promises, the ‘creation of a wall between America and Mexico’. As the show goes on, it becomes clear that this wall is actually a tragic development in Canada’s history which is in part responsible for the migration of Canadian immigrants. The main factor though is the election of their new Canadian Prime Minister, Donald Trump. His rise to power is told by one Canadian immigrant in a hilarious yet cautionary way so as to encourage audiences to think about the risk they are taking in considering Trump for president. This immigrant says of his departure from Canada, a country he claims to be the ‘greatest on Earth’, clearly echoing the sentiments of the mindset found in the American zest of many Donald Trump supporters. He states that there were several candidates during the Canadian elections. One of them was this brash asshole who just spoke his mind. He didn’t really offer any solutions. He just said outrageous things. We thought it was funny. Nobody really thought that he would be president. It was a joke, but we just let the joke go on for too long. He kept gaining momentum and by the time we were already to say enough, let’s get serious now, who should be president? He was already being sworn into office. We weren’t paying attention. We WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION! (South Park Studios, 2015).

The scene cuts to a Canadian version of Trump who is in the middle of tirade of telling people to ‘suck his balls’ including his critics, the prime minister of China, and even his staff (South Park Studios, 2015). The implications of these words are followed by scenes of a desolate Canada where streets are deserted as though the apocalypse has suddenly broken out with broken windows, deserted streets, and crying people. Mr. Garrison, the rouge teacher who went to Canada to solve the matter of the wall between them and America, and Donald Trump end up fighting together when he finds him which ends in a brutal scene of him raping the prime minster to death (South Park Studios, 2015).

The audacity of this South Park episode is so completely terrible on so many levels. They literally dedicate the entire episode to showing what a terrible thing it would be if Trump were to be sent into the presidency and conclude with him actually being killed because of it. This show goes out of its way to impress the dangers of having Trump as president by literally having refuges from his nation, Canada in this hypothetical situation, tell of what a sham his election was on top of what a total disaster his election was for the Canadian people. The show actually goes well out of its way to send its supposed teaching about Trump with the testimony of the immigrant who clearly is being used to warn American citizens about the perils of electing Trump as president. The fact that thy reference how his ascent to prime minister was spurred on by the flippant and comedic attitudes of the Canadians reiterates how seriously South Park tried to come across so that their message could be accepted as a legitimate warning even despite that.

Saturday Night Live

One of the leading comedic entertainment shows that has perpetuated the negative stereotype of Trump as president has been Saturday Night Live. Saturday Night Live is especially important for the comedic analysis of this essay for it is a very successful show that has been on for decades on a regular time with literally millions of viewers watching at the best time of their weekend evening. The poor reflections given by SNL for Trump represent a critical threat that should have chipped hard at the President’s 2016 campaign due to both the magnitude of the audience as well as the severity of their commentaries. They repeatedly have had him on the show and belittled his character both in mock debate and mock interview. One of the first instances of Donald’s fake appearance came on September 31, with the ‘Cold Open’ where he, played by Alec Baldwin, faces off against Hillary Clinton, Kate McKinnon, in a debate. The Trump character is the butt of the jokes they make time and time again while Hillary is presented as the better choice for style, intelligence, and likely political reasons. Trump is given many mocking mannerisms such as pouting lips and the mispronunciation of ‘China’ as ‘Gina” whereas Hillary is congratulated as the country’s shoo-in president (Saturday Night Live, A., 2016). She further is given unchecked airs to say he has ‘terrible judgement’ and that he has ‘cheated’ the normal American worker with business moves. To this, Trump’s response is a projected rant of mean things about Hillary even though they actually are only things about him like that he has orange skin, weird hair, and obscene facial gestures (Saturday Night Live, A., 2016). He also suggests that he would drop a conversational ‘nuclear bomb’ on Clinton and that she should be considered suspect because her husband Bill cheated on her in the 90s with a ‘unknown person who Trump’s investigators are searching for’ (Saturday Night Live, A., 2016). The obvious buffoonery of Trump’s presence on Saturday Night Live reiterates the general wide media consensus that he is the worst candidate imaginable for the presidency while Hillary would be more qualified for the work of presidency.

The second time Saturday Night Live has Donald Trump on, it is in a debate in the Town Hall style against Hillary Clinton. They begin by stating, on what is a prime time for the weekend and highly popular television show, that Hillary is ‘President Hillary’ thereby inferring that Donald is not going to win, likely because he is too unqualified (Saturday Night Live, B, 2016). The president is again interviewed on the sexual assault statements he made by stating that those women who said he has been sexually abusive should “Shut the hell up”. Hillary slams Donald Trump later in the show saying that he “handed her the election” which provokes no response from Trump. The next week, Baldwin stars again as Trump in another SNL skit where he debates Hillary. Again, they give him the extremist perspective right from the get-go with him saying about women’s rights that “they are ripping babies out of women” in regards to abortion, one of the Nation’s most controversial and hot items. They further have Trump being belligerently bigoted about Mexico calling their president “Mr. Guacamole, correction, Senor Guacamole” (Saturday Night Live, C, 2016). They again make fun of his chances of winning most poignantly with the assertion that “you are probably going to lose” to which Baldwin, as Trump says “Correct.”. This comedic take on the election was clearly written with the aim to deface Trump in mind. Hillary Clinton reiterates this outlook with her closing remark “Listen America, Donald Trump cannot be President. He would be a disaster, a failure, a complete F and America, you deserve better than an ‘F’.” to which the Baldwin Donald Trump gives no objection and even suggests that America will hate him on Trump TV (SNL, C, 2016).

The overall theme of the SNL skits containing Donald Trump is that he is a major idiot who has no sense at all to be the president or even debate properly. The actors for Hillary and Donald impersonate each of their quirky mannerisms yet with Trump there is an enormous exaggeration that far extends that of Hillary. True, he is the more controversial candidate, but the treatment he receives from SNL is even crueler than it is funny. Hillary literally arrives at debate three of the SNL skit with knives she is sharpening as she prepares to ‘eat’ Donald after having tenderized and grilled him in the previous debates. Trump is witless to shut her down and the majority of the skit is about how stupid he is versus Hillary which the debate spokesperson suggests has already won her the presidency. Like the South Park episodes from before, there is a massive effort to discredit Trump perhaps even more so than ever for an SNL comedy election.

Late Night

For another examination of anti-Donald Trump comedy that further serves to reiterate the general anti-comedic opinion of the candidate, one may examine the Late-Night show hosted by Seth Meyers. In the journal article from Bradley, Meyers history of Trump bashing is briefly reviewed and supplemented with clips from the Late Night to show just how consistently deplored Trump was by Meyers along the campaign trail. The night before the election, Meyers, while running his comedic entertainment, proceeds to give Donald Trump a solo from the World’s tiniest violin (his fingers rubbed together) after campaign footage of Trump is given of him somewhat hurt by a widespread celebrity favoritism for his opponent, Miss Clinton. He then calls Trump a whiny person with a fragile ego. Furthermore, Meyers points out that Trump looks like a Scooby Do bad guy and a James Bond Villain. Intriguingly, Meyers also shares how presidential Obama himself has comically jested at Trump on regular news after hearing that Trump’s campaign managers removed his access to his Twitter account just prior to the election so that he would not defame himself with bad or obscene tweets, to which Obama says that this is a nominee who “can’t handle the nuclear codes” that one gets access to as president. This small sample from the Late Show the day before the election is just demonstration of the Late Show’s general disagreement, mockery, and laughing at Trump from since the very beginning of the man’s public disclosure that he would run for president to which Seth at the time called a joke in and of itself.

Trump Comedy Analysis

The material from South Park studios, Saturday Night Live, and Late-Night regarding Trump mockery, is a mix of social commentary and comedic entertainment. The normative approach of Hill suggests that people who watch these shows, especially Saturday Night Live’s viewers which is a prime-time weekend fake-news source, will follow the material reported as containing some legitimacy. Although neither show attempts to reach nearly the same degree of news seriousness even the funny Colbert Report or The Daily Show, the both are prime comedic sources of entertainment known for their regular commentary on serious occurrences. Data from Hill’s research clearly suggests that the antics of South Park and Saturday Night Live should have been taken somewhat seriously by their audiences (2013).

Results of Comedic Trump Dissent

Here, the importance of the comedic theory in convergence with the Late-Night Trump Comedy is analyzed. The purpose of this section is to show what, according to the Comedic research and theory available for societal and Late-Night comedy why Trump, with all the negative and jeering attacks at his campaign, should have lost the 2016 election. As the Late Night with Seth shows, the pervasiveness of Trump mockery has been strong since the outset of his campaign when he decided to run. With his unruly, aggressive, and eccentric behaviors, history of privilege and power, and extremist campaign promises, most of which has been covered in the Trump preview section, Donald is naturally the so called ‘underdog’ of the election and if there is anything comedians appreciate it is to pick on the runts.

The Frames of Acceptance taught by Burke could be applied to the anti-Trump comedy as a theory for why he is chosen for repeated mockery. The Frames of Acceptance hold that with Comedy writers have tried to help themselves and others to process Trump, a TV star and business magnate, as the Republican party’s nominee. The writings of Burke, commented upon by Biebel, show why such comedy is centered on his stupidity. In the case of Trump, they are making fun of his stupidity even more so than his opponent. With the Frames, it is shown that writers use humor to create a vision of man in society rather than tragedy which works with the cosmic man. This principle is helpful for it helps to explain why Trump comedy is clearly being used to send messages to society through its own rhetoric. Trump comedy is intriguing for it often paints him as emblematic of greater social problems, such as corporate dominance or cultural obsessions with celebrities. This allows for him to fit the man in society role of comedy thereby giving audiences more to understand and laugh at while watching (Burke, 1984).

Trump is mocked more ruthlessly than perhaps any candidate yet seen for usually when political candidates appear in comedy skits they are written with bi-partisan humor. With Trump however, there is the widespread cutting at the man’s character in the most outrageous and indefensible of ways. The SNL skits he appears in are different than other ones where the candidates fought for supremacy on the topics as well as for audience favor. Rather, Donald Trump is shown as a buffoon who will not give a rebuttal to the critiques of Hillary nor other fake news candidates. The Late Show similarly gives Donald the worst rap imaginable with connecting him to a Bond Villain and playing the world’s smallest violin. South Park similarly reaches historical lows for even their spoofing with an episode the precisely eviscerates Trump with testimony from an immigrant who has fled the country that critically calls out the flippant and comedic factors that led to Trump’s rise to presidency. Though extremely critical of Trump, it is possible that these skits go too far in mockery. Biebel in his review of Burke writes that when Frames go too far, they distort the teaching possibility found in the comedy. When the plausibility of a comedy situation goes too far by showing symptoms of a problem rather than the factors that lie beneath them, the influential effect of the seriousness may be lost in the humor. These media samples of Trump mockery should be analyzed through a variety of lens in order to effectively interpret their meaning as a part of a counter campaign to Trump’s political campaign. It is worth noting from the outset that Trump was criticized in not only the comedy circles but also in mainstream media quite heavily. His biography The Truth About Trump, written by Michael D’Antonio is a fairly brutal take on his political platform and person. The Washington Post further degrades him in many a post though none speaks so loudly about their dislike of Trump as “Donald Trump and the End of History” where journalist O’Brien basically calls him a total disaster for the world thanks to his more radical campaign messages such as “jailing his political rivals, about cracking down on the free press, about potentially abandoning our allies, about encouraging them to get nuclear weapons of their own, and about ripping up free trade agreements” (O’Brien, 2016).

D’Antonio, author of The Trump About Trump, confirms that these statements, no matter how exaggerated, are actually a somewhat common behavior for Trump. While rising to power, he was known to threaten many journalists and offices with a lawsuit if they would speak out against him (2016). D’Antonio calls Trump a person with a menacing Character who frequently would use intimidation behaviors, such as physical and economic muscle flexing, to get others to succumb to their will. It seems that these statements very well could have come from Trump but it is also likely that they are taken out of context as well as a part of the journalist’s exaggerated charge at Trump as way to rally attention to his more controversial notes. Use of exaggerations and stereotypes, like the ones found in the comedy sketch routines presented above, may win sympathies from viewers-readers to the against the opinion of his critics.

Several scholarly articles lead to the suggestion that this wave of anti-Trump comedy should have been more effective in preventing his presidency. Beginning with Hill (2013), satirical reports like the Colbert Report and The Daily Show are found to have a legitimate influence on audiences who have found them to actually be reporting the news even though they pure comedy. This means that shows such as those discussed in this review, including the Late Show, Saturday Night Live, and South Park, as well as those that didn’t make it into this report yet nonetheless do exist as these three samples imply, also can be taken very seriously even while joking. The fact that the shows are likely to be taken seriously does fit in alignment with the agendas that the shows no doubt are motivated by as their messages show. As such, the audiences for these series would likely, according to scholarly comedic theory, have believed that Trump was an unfit candidate and thus not have voted for him. Especially with the way comedy is supposed to activate ‘maximum consciousness’ (Biebel, 2011), Trump skits should have aroused great change like other political comedic shows (Lockyer and Pickering, 2008). Thus, either there is something wrong about Hill’s theory or rather that there is something about Trump that has earned him voter points despite comedic degradation.

The influences of the comedy are particularly disparaging given that they are delivered with a ‘dramatist perspective’ (Madsen, 1993). When media is given with a ‘dramatistic perspective’ it is likely to be embraced even more readily than a polarized political broadcast that has the propensity to be rejected based upon partisan issues. The Trump media, especially in South Park’s case, is rude, cutting, and harsh to break the ‘status quo’ of opinion that Trump is an acceptable candidate. Here though, the subtle and cruel mocking of comedic performers and shows, while couched in drama, failed to make the impression desired. Thus, leading to the conclusion that either the drama was not dramatic enough or that media influences are not as great as is widely believed. Janes and Olson’s finding that comedy’s jeering can lead to social pressure and even conformed behavior again shows how Trump comedy might have made a bigger impact on his running for president (2015).

Late Night Comedy has already been shown numerous times to make an impact on elections. Parkins, Baek and Wojcieszak, and Moy, Xenos, and Hess’s studies on the 2004 elections and late-night comedy humor leading up to their conclusion found that candidates appearances on these shows caused significant alterations in audience appraisal. This ‘priming’ effect is supposed to happen both for candidates and for the messages they send. In review of the Trump Humor, there seems to be about twice as much hate for him as there is for his agendas, such as building a wall between America and Mexico. Once more, the evidence on top of the theory suggests that Trumps’ widespread mockeries might have thwarted his election efforts, yet they have not.


The purpose of this study was to compare the comedic theory and research that suggests how influential it may be for sensitive cultural issues such as the 2016 election. Trump is an apt target for comedy research on many levels for his is the embodiment of the man in society for he is a TV icon while also being an economic idol. The obscene behaviors of Trump coupled with his campaign goals have made him this year’s favored target for humor. He is mocked more so than his opponents and likely any other nominee in history by these shows, South Park, SNL, and the Late Show and more, probably because has more character to make fun of. Comedic theory suggests that people who watched the shows would or should have reduced their opinion of the man as they saw him being constantly bombarded with writers’ comedic insights and shots. In lieu of the broken expectations from the theories and research shown thus far like Hills, some sort of explanation is due. Since Burke discusses that Comedy is “capable of misunderstanding a given historical situation” (Burke, 2011) it may be that writers have not properly identified Trump nor the circumstances that led to his win as a nominee and now as a president.

In my analysis of these factors, the stand out factor for Trump that may explain both the degree of comedy derived about him as well as his success as a nominee has to do with his wild and ego centric behaviors. Comedians find these qualities easy to make fun of since they are different from the way most other politicians operate. Trump’s rants give writers ample opportunity to create skits to make fun of him and his policies. The same quality that leads Trumps to create these speeches and act so very independently of other’s opinions is probably what voters have admired about him. Voters might have seen Trump as a radical character who could bring radical changes to Washington some of which are quite desired by the American people who are reported to believe that their political system is more corrupt than ever. Trump may or may not be the solution to this problem, yet he still does seem like quite the wild card the government needs to break up the monotony. That he is a bit of joker is what made, and likely will continue to make, Trump a target for comedians on Late Television.

This study’s examination of anti-Trump comedy with Burke’s lens of comedy theory as well as several other scholarly articles report on the influential value of comedy. The research suggests that audiences likely would have been repulsed by the way writers wrote Trump to be a witless and mean jerk, yet they found some traits about him that won the majority of the American people’s votes. It may be that Trump’s wildness is what helped him the race for that is what the election is turning out to be more often than not these days, a literal contest. As a contest, Trump played the election true to form with plenty of shouting, name calling, and ‘Trumped up’ poses. Comedians certainly perpetuated these behaviors with their media presences. Could it be that comedian’s portrayal of Trump as a brute are what helped him in the end and if so, what does that spell for American comedy and the American psyche? These are still questions of interest that could be answered in further analysis. Since there is likely to be no end to Trump mockery, it could be that comedy analysis in comedy content and media response are possible.

In summation, the comedy antics of writers, even with significant research to suggest its influential power, did not make the dent so clearly desired in the Donald Trump Campaign. He won the election, indisputably, and that is a curious thing in deed for theories of comedy suggest that it is one of the most motivating, acceptable, and dramatic ways of capturing attention. For whatever the reason, the comedy skits did not work this time, which has led to some speculation about the nature of his victory. Could it be that he is just the wild card that the nation needs, and this netted him the win or did perhaps all the comedy back fire in some way? These questions and more are worth noting for this study did not utilize experimental methods which may have polled audiences and voters. Future studies may incorporate an experimental design to add to information and insight about Trump and the comedy about him that this essay has missed.


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