There’s a cliche in this business that “all publicity is good publicity.” Like everything else, that’s a relative truism, but if you’re one to subscribe to that notion, then you probably think Donald Trump is having the best year ever.
No single media source can get enough of Trump. There were a few days last week on CNN that every single aggregated top story on their app had “Trump” in the headline. Look at the Associated Press string and half the “Top Stories” are Trump! Trump! Trump!
But, perhaps, the industry most appreciative of the nation’s bottomless appetite for all things Trump is late night comedy. From the resurgence of Saturday Night Live as, essentially, a Trump-skewering vehicle for liberal commiseration, to the topical shift on The Late Show, Trump-heavy content has become real currency for primetime and late night programming.
The Trump-heavy content ranges from the wink-wink, nudge-nudge quips on Colbert and Fallon, to the off the reservation skewering from the likes of John Oliver, whose “Last Week Tonight” painted the President as an inept coward hiding behind his desk, complete with the caption: “Scary times call for a scared man…”
And, of course, there’s Saturday Night Live, where just about every member of the cast is trying to figure out which member of Trump’s cabinet to impersonate, so they can play opposite Alec Baldwin and, well, pretty much every episode. Even guest stars are getting into the act after Melissa McCarthy recently took on press secretary Sean Spicer for one of the most viral bits in weeks.
On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah can always be counted on to take whatever Trump has said and done throughout the day and trying to spin it for snarky laughter. And, of course, TDS alum, Samantha Bee, is a constant critic of all things Trump.
But the real question is who’s getting the most out of this? Trump absolutely loves the attention, even if he takes the actors and hosts to task for getting him wrong. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters love to see everyone in the media piling on Trump … even if, “the media” in question are really a bunch of late night comics. Trump supporters use all the “jokes” to prove their point that “Hollywood” is out to get Trump. Never mind that most of these shows are produced in NYC, if you’re famous and on TV and you don’t like Trump, you’re “Hollywood” to some folks.
And, of course, Trump critics love the jokes. A quick look at their social media feeds on Sunday and Monday is easy evidence as all the hit jobs on the President quickly go viral. So, the real question is, are all these jokes really making everyone happy? There’s a strong argument that says, “yes” … though you likely won’t get both sides to agree, even on that.
William Doonan is a tax law and legal expert.