Trump beats Bill Clin­ton as butt of late-night jokes

Times Colonist - - Television - DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK — Did you hear the one about Pres­i­dent Trump? Or, more pre­cisely, did you hear all 3,128 jokes?

A think-tank that has stud­ied the con­tent of latenight com­edy for the past 26 years said Don­ald Trump was the butt of more jokes in 2017 than any other pub­lic fig­ure has for been a sin­gle year. By a lot. He beat the pre­vi­ous record of 1,816, set by Trump as a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2016, said the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity in a study re­leased Fri­day.

Be­fore that, the record was 1,717 about for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 1998, the year of Mon­ica Lewin­sky.

“Trump makes Bill Clin­ton look like a piker when it comes to po­lit­i­cal hu­mour,” said Robert Lichter, head of the cen­tre. The study looked at open­ing monologue jokes on shows hosted by Stephen Col­bert, Jimmy Fal­lon, Jimmy Kim­mel and Trevor Noah last year.

There were a to­tal of 6,337 po­lit­i­cal jokes in the show’s mono­logues last year, and Trump was the sub­ject of nearly half of them.

Pres­i­den­tial hu­mour has al­ways been a sta­ple of late-night com­edy, but hosts would of­ten make a cou­ple of jokes about the pres­i­dent and quickly move on to other news sto­ries, said Bill Carter, author of The Late Shift about the tele­vi­sion com­edy shows. That’s not the case any­more, he said. “Rarely is there an­other news story that pro­vides fod­der enough for the writ­ers,” Carter said. “The writ­ers seem to be con­sumed, as the na­tion is con­sumed, as the news me­dia is con­sumed. There’s an end­less and bot­tom­less sup­ply.”

Col­bert has vaulted to the top of the late-night rat­ings with a Trump-cen­tric ap­proach, and his ri­vals have taken no­tice.

Trump’s pres­i­dency has left many in the coun­try in a state of high anx­i­ety, and com­edy pro­vides an out­let, Carter said.

Carter said he used to think that view­ers would get tired of all the Trump jokes, but now he’s not so sure.

“If Col­bert came out and didn’t do a monologue about Trump, you’d say: ‘What hap­pened?’ ” he said.

The con­stant fire­hose of news com­ing from the pres­i­dent ex­hausts re­porters, along with pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial for comic writ­ers, he said.

That has its down­side, how­ever, since late-night writ­ers fre­quently com­plain about hav­ing to throw jokes out and write new ones late in the af­ter­noon, he said.

Stephen Col­bert has vaulted to the top of the late-night rat­ings with a Trump-cen­tric ap­proach, and his ri­vals have taken no­tice.

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