Election 2016: Humor, the last line of defense

Fighting politics with humor

“Saturday Night Live” got in its final pokes at Campaign 2016 last night ... a campaign, Lee Cowan reminds us, that’s given humorists (and voters) plenty of comic relief:

It’s been such a head-scratcher of an election: “The Late Show”’s Stephen Colbert thought he’d better protect himself with a dog cone.

Stephen Colbert: “Doctor says I gotta wear this until the election is over so I don’t claw my eyes out,” he said.

Bingo!  How many of us feel the same way?

Trevor Noah: “Trump sues so many people he’s probably got Platinum Medallion status at the courthouse!”

Instead of being the nation’s nightlights, late-night comedy shows have become more like release valves.

Bill Maher: “Hillary has to own all the nasty things the haters says and run as the ‘Notorious HRC’!”

If we weren’t laughing, we might be crying. 

“We’ve never had a major party female candidate before,” Colbert told Cowan, “which is one of the things that’s extraordinary, that gets totally swamped under the pile of orange shag carpeting that is Donald Trump!”

Colbert doesn’t see his humor as piling on Donald Trump; he sees it as truth-telling. “He sounds on the campaign trail as much like he’s a mobster you know? ‘I’m in shipping. It’s a nice democracy you got here. I hate to see somethin’ happen to it, okay?’” Colbert laughed. “’Maybe I’ll concede on Election Day. Maybe I won’t, okay?’”

Even Jon Stewart couldn’t resist coming out of retirement to sit in for Colbert one night.

Jon Stewart: “I thought Donald Trump was going to speak. Ivanka said that he was going to come out. She said he was really compassionate and generous. But then this angry groundhog came out.”

Jon Stewart Takes Over Colbert's Late Show Desk by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on YouTube

Stewart led the fake news movement that blended laugh-out-loud one-liners with news analysis. Samantha Bee, a “Daily Show” alum, continues the tradition, although she’s more righteously furious.

Samantha Bee: “Warning: You’re going to here the P word, and trust me, that word isn’t ‘Presidential.’”

A Totally Real, 100% Valid Theory | Full Frontal with Samantha Bee | TBS by Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on YouTube

Another alum, John Oliver, has a more studious take.

John Oliver: “Donald Trump views the truth the way [a] Lemur views the Supreme Court vacancy: I don’t care about that in any way. Please f*** off, I have a banana!”

To diffuse it all, the candidates themselves have tried getting in on the jokes. Hillary Clinton appeared with Zach Galifianakis on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns.”

Zach Galifianakis: “What happens if you become pregnant? Are we going to be stuck with Tim Kaine for nine months? How does this work?”
Hillary Clinton: “I could send you some pamphlets that might help you understand.”

Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: Hillary Clinton by Funny Or Die on YouTube

Donald Trump made fun of himself, too, on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

Donald Trump: “Me interviewing me, that’s what I call a great idea.”
Jimmy Fallon: “Of course, it’s a great idea. We thought of it.”

Donald Trump Interviews Himself In the Mirror by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube

But then came Alec Baldwin’s Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”

Alec Baldwin (as Trump): “Every day I turn on the news and all of the newscasters are making me look so bad.”
Tom Hanks (as Chris Wallace): “And how are we doing that?
Baldwin: “By taking all of the things I say, and all of the things I do, and putting them on TV!”

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton Third Debate Cold Open - SNL by Saturday Night Live on YouTube

That sent The Donald straight to his Twitter account:

He may actually have a bit of a point. There is a humor bias, turns out; studies have proven it. Among a survey of four late night shows, George Mason University found Donald Trump was the subject of 79 percent of the jabs, compared to just 21 percent for Hillary Clinton. But that 21 percent can still stick. 

Colbert: “If only there was a way to get a glimpse into the private side of Hillary Clinton. I don’t know, read her emails or something.”

Seth Myers: “Today is Hillary’s third day off the campaign trail since 1953.”

But not everyone with a political funny bone is a hardcore liberal.

“I am a member of the smallest minority in America: a conservative journalist!” said Michael Ramirez. “We are outnumbered by about 100 to one, and I think I just have to be that much more obnoxious to make up for it!”

Ramirez is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist.

Michael Ramirez

Lampooning Secretary Clinton’s renewed email investigation, you’d think, would be a delight, but it was almost too over the top for him.

“As soon as Anthony Weiner approached on the landscape, believe me, 50 ideas that I cannot draw immediately came to mind,” Ramirez said.

It’s all so absurd, some humorists aren’t quote sure what to make of it.

“It’s a role-reversal where the politician is being the clown and we’re the ones folding our hands and saying, ‘This is unacceptable, sir!’ You cannot do this!” said Andy Borowitz, who writes The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report, a parody of daily news. 

The New Yorker

The Borowitz Report boasts headlines like this: “Trump Surges Ahead of Clinton in Poll Conducted By His Brain.”

“People are so distraught, and so upset about where our country is, that I’ve never seen this kind of visceral reaction, where people will actually come up to me and say, ‘Thank God for comedy right now, because it’s the only thing that’s getting me through,’” Borowitz said.

It’s okay to be still be chuckling as you head to the polls Tuesday. Just don’t be laughing too hard not to go at all. 

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