What is the future of political comedy in a post-Trump world?
Only hours after Joe Biden was declared the president-elect, Saturday Night Live presented an election-themed episode that earned the comedy series the highest-ratings it's had in three-and-a-half years. Alec Baldwin reprised his role as Trump, a parody he’s been playing for the last four years. But this latest episode marked an end of an era, not only for Baldwin’s Emmy award-winning character, but for the record number of viewers who tuned to see how the cast of comedians would take aim at the Trump administration.
With Biden set to take the White House, many are wondering how shows will continue to make viewers laugh. While the Trump presidency has been terrible for Americans, it has been great for television. Like Saturday Night Live, most of late-night TV, which has found a newfound success under Trump's bumbling leadership, will have to reckon with the changing of the guard. The past four years have offered fodder for established hosts like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, along with newcomers like Samantha Bee, whose anti-Trump bits created plenty of viral moments and record viewership.
While a Biden presidency leaves the future of comedy uncertain, for some in the television industry, the end of Trump jokes didn’t come soon enough. Last week, the head writer on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Rebecca Drysdale, departed the show citing jokes about the president as her motivating factor in a private Facebook post.
“I believe that comedy is a powerful tool. I believe that it can handle anything, no matter how unfunny. I don’t believe that making fun of this man, doing impressions of him, or making him silly, is a good use of that power. It only adds to his,” she wrote in the now-deleted post.
It’s true that the past four years have been consumed by Trump and his minions. But, according to Steve Bodow, a former head writer and executive producer of The Daily Show, who recently spoke with The Washington Post, comedy will only get better post-Trump.
“I feel confident saying most writers of late night will not only be politically and patriotically happier, but they’ll be comedically happier,” said Bodow. “The thing about Trump is there’s nothing new there; there’s just not that much to chew off the bone. It can be utterly exhausting.”