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Trump Is Bad for Comedy

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  • "Clapter"

    Stand-up comedian Sara Schaefer discusses political comedy fatigue and the problem with “clapter.”

  • Inclusive or Divisive Comedy?

    Should comedy be made for all audiences? Billy Kimball and P. J. O’Rourke debate.

  • Audience Question: What’s Off Limits?

    Is Trump off limits for comedians? Sara Schaefer responds.

  • Just an Old-Fashioned Country-Club Republican

    Political satirist P. J. O’Rourke makes his opening statement in defense of the motion.

  • Audience Question: Coffee, Comedy & Trump

    What do coffee highs and the comedy industry have in common? P. J. O’Rourke responds to a question from the audience.

  • “Taboo Inflation” & Political Correctness

    Is comedy suffering from heightened political correctness? P. J. O’Rourke and Kurt Andersen discuss.

Debate Details

Trump Is Bad For Comedy

From the opening skit on “Saturday Night Live” to “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to the pages of The Onion, President Trump has become the face of comedy. Some comedians and writers argue that in the Trump era, satire has become more challenging and jokes have become cheap.  Trump, according to his critics, has normalized the absurd and the nature of political satire in a post-truth world. But others disagree; they argue that the president serves up comedy-gold every day, making their jobs – and the laughs they seek to elicit – easier than ever before. And, they argue, comedy is much more “woke” than it used to be, with late-night hosts and comedians playing a pivotal role in the fight for social justice. Is the president killing comedy? Or is he making the funny business ever more relevant?

 

The Debaters

For the motion

P.J. O'Rourke

Political Satirist & Best-Selling Author

P. J. O’Rourke is a leading political satirist and editor-in-chief of the web magazine American Consequences. He has written nineteen... Read More

Sara Schaefer

Sara Schaefer

Critically Acclaimed Stand-Up Comedian, Writer & Producer

Sara Schaefer is a critically acclaimed stand-up comedian, writer, and producer who has won two Emmy awards and a Webby award for her work on “Late... Read More

Against the motion

Kurt Andersen

Kurt Andersen

Host, "Studio 360" & Best-Selling Author, “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire”

Kurt Andersen is the best-selling author of three critically acclaimed novels. His non-fiction books include, most recently, “Fantasyland: How America... Read More

Billy Kimball

Billy Kimball

Writer & Emmy Award-Winning Supervising Producer, “Veep”

Billy Kimball is an Emmy award-winning writer and co-executive producer for the hit HBO series “Veep” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He has... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • In an era often deemed “post-truth,” reality has become distorted and headlines can range from the unusual to the absurd. For many comedians, it has become increasingly difficult to create smart, original comedy that parodies news already beyond the norm.

  • In the current polarized climate, many comics argue that their audiences are anxious and tense. And beyond that, some comedians – many of them women – have been targeted and threatened, eliciting fear that could stifle creative comedy.

  • Some argue that while Trump might inspire good comedy, the cost may be too high. The effects of persistent hurtful rhetoric and the marginalization of minority groups are issues too serious to laugh about, they say. 

Against The Motion
  • Trump may be a polarizing figure to some, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t inspiring great political comedy. Comedians are working harder to create hard-hitting entertainment, and shows like “Saturday Night Live” are seeing their best ratings in decades.  
  • Humor can be a powerful tool, one that can unite people in divisive times. And with many getting their news from late-night hosts like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, more people are brought into the fold and connected by comedy. 
  • Comedians could influence America during this seemingly turbulent time. Whether it’s awakening people to injustices, rallying others to vote, or advocating for or against a policy, people might listen if it’s comically made.

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Results

  • Live Audience
  • Online Audience
  • Results
  • Breakdown
Pre-Debate
Post-Debate

The Research

The Research

This is comedy in the age of Trump

January 12, 2018

Comedians discuss how comedy has changed under Trump’s presidency.

Funny, How? Inside Stand-Up Comedy’s Donald Trump Problem

Burt Helm
June 2, 2017

“He is an absurdist’s dream: a braggadocious, self-pitying billionaire with a Donald Duck temper; our nation’s punchline-in-chief. But Trump is not comedy gold.”

President Trump is making satire great again

The Economist
February 11, 2017

“Barack Obama was bad for satirists, even if few seemed to mind … Thankfully, Donald Trump is making satire great again.”

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