It’s a cliché at this point that the court jester is the only person who can speak truth to the king, but it’s also hard not to realize the importance of comedy—and, in particular, satire—in the face of something like the Trump administration, which openly disdains truth, decorum, general sociopolitical stability, the press, the people who elected them, and all other breathing, sentient life on the planet. A fascistic kleptocracy is not “good for comedy,” but it does call comedy to do better. At the very least, it’s damn good fodder for them.
A new video from Vox maintains that late-night comedians are holding up their end of the deal, essentially doing a better job covering Trump than the major news networks are. The argument is compelling for more reasons than the fact that watching cable news is like eating a valium and having people scream at you until you cannot feel, hear, or think anymore.
The video praises in particular the work of Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live for being willing and able to quickly call bullshit on Trump’s most bullshit-rich provocations and then move on to analysis and more substantive reporting. If you afford yourself the space to say, for example, that Trump’s wire-tapping claims are baseless, you can quickly start talking about where he got it and also save time for other investigations that may actually matter. Late-night comedians take this as granted, but news networks opt instead to spend literal hours on panel discussions about the nature of the allegations and the various permutations of reality in which the allegations may possibly be true.
Satire not only grants these comedians the editorial space to dismiss Trump’s endless volleys of obfuscation but also encourages viewers to cast a critical eye toward power. As proof that cable news can get better, though, they cite manila-envelope firebrand Jake Tapper, the newsman most willing to roll his eyes on air when someone flings bullshit at him. He is brought up here on a vision board surrounded by hearts; may more follow his dreamy lead.