The 2016 election stranded late-night comedy in a rut of stale reactions to the current moment. The genre needs a facelift to deal with whatever comes next
As the results trickled in on election night 2016, Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show on CBS, processed Donald Trump’s victory live, before a shocked audience. He lamented of America’s partisan divide (“how did our politics get so poisonous?”), professed belief in the utility of comedy (“in the face of something that might strike you as horrible, I think laughter is the best medicine. You cannot laugh and be afraid at the same time”) and offhandedly prefigured the identity crisis to come for late-night television: “I’m not sure it’s a comedy show anymore.”
Colbert performed the role of late-night host nimbly, even if the genre of an election night comedy hour was poorly suited for the victory of a candidacy that had been viewed by many as a joke. Trump, as the TV critic Emily Nussbaum argued in January 2017, had long performed, and audience-tested in rallies, the role of a boozy, heckling, aggrieved stand-up comic, one who shrugged off countless taboos as “sarcastic” jokes, one with an endless appetite for attention.
Donald Trump | The Guardian
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