From Brexit to Trump, 2016 was a weird and ultimately terrible year for politics.
This year was also a test for comedians. Would they cozy up to Trump? (Jimmy Fallon failed) Would they stand up to him in creative, original, and angry ways? (Seth Meyers succeeded) Ultimately, it was the year we discovered that posting John Oliver clips had absolutely no effect.
In that light, it’s time to look at comedy less as something that can change the world, but more something that will help us laugh at the absurdity of the coming years, as a “Dr. Strangelove” moment looks more and more likely to come true.
After watching Trump shockingly beat Hillary Clinton, I believe that nobody knows anything anymore. But I’ll at least do the best I can to let these funny moments speak for themselves:
“Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Stalks Ted Cruz”
One of the most unexpected staples of the election cycle became Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the cigar-chomping, leg-humping puppet who made a name for himself on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Early this year, creator Robert Smigel released a special covering the Democratic and Republican primaries.
During the first special, Triumph stalks Ted Cruz on the primary trail for a glorious seven minutes. There is no larger message here, but at one moment during the segment, Cruz appears to have spotted Triumph in the crowd while he’s giving a speech. The look on Cruz’s face is a sad, sad confusion. Triumph had finally revealed the Texas senator in his natural state.
Samantha Bee on Paul LePage
If there’s been one reason floating around as to why Democrats lost the election, it’s because they focused on the grand prize of the White House and not enough on local politics. That goes for politicians, voters, and talking heads alike. But don’t tell Samantha Bee that, who realized early on that political horrors are happening well beyond Trump and the issues that liberals care most about play out most at the local level.
One of Bee’s funniest and most blistering segments is on Maine governor Paul LePage, who she makes a convincing case for as the proto-Trump Besides the great points she makes, she deserves even more credit for her subtle burns, such as calling LePage both Strom Thurmond and Marine La Pen, basically under her breath.
Seth Meyers After the Election
If you watched Seth Meyers during his years as Weekend Update anchor on “Saturday Night Live,” then his ascendence as the new Jon Stewart shouldn’t shock you. What should shock you is how long it took you to notice.
His “A Closer Look” segments have been both sharp and hilarious. But Seth’s greatest moment came the day after the election, with the world still in shock at Donald Trump’s unexpected win. Instead of being angry, Meyers was sad, earnest, and uncomfortably funny. He talks about how wrong he was about Trump (one of the first to admit it), and the joy of having an eight-month-old son who has no idea what is going on in the world.
This segment proved the true role of a late night host. You don’t have to eviscerate or destroy. Instead, you can just convey what your audience is feeling and provide a source of comfort. Nothing is more cathartic than a laugh over the possibility that we’re all doomed.
“Kellyanne’s Day Off”
The cycle went like this: Donald Trump said something awful at a rally, everyone freaked out, and then his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway went on CNN to smooth it out. The “SNL” sketch took this concept and elevated it to ridiculous heights. What really brings it to life is Kate McKinnon, proving a master of impressions you never knew could be done.
The sketch floated around the idea that maybe Kellyanne Conway didn’t want to be working with Trump at all. That hypothesis seems less true post-election, but the fact that the real Conway got a kick out of this sketch and it’s message is telling.
Super Deluxe/Vic Berger IV
Along with David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, one of the many tragic losses of 2016 was Vine. The death of Vine silenced a great corner of comedy on the internet. Berger’s Vines, part of Super Deluxe, recut the words, speeches, and angry rants of politicians, in surreal and brilliant ways. Sometimes, that’ll take the form of a music video. Other times, it will be a closeup of Jeb Bush’s sad, sad face in addition to Ted Cruz’s sad sad face.
“Voters For Trump Ad”
As “Saturday Night Live” continues on its long redemption path after letting Donald Trump host back when nobody thought he would even win the GOP nomination, they cooked up this much talked about fake commercial. It’s
Billy On the Street – Immigrant or Real American?
The premise is simple. Jeffrey Dahmer? Real American. Natalie Portman? Immigrant. Charles Manson? Real American. Salma Hayek? Immigrant. I don’t normally go to “Billy on the Street” for political commentary (just for Eichner’s opinions about “Ratatouille”), but this bit says so much so perfectly.