Five Stars Who Should Drop the Trump Jokes and Be Seinfeld-Smart
These Hollywood entertainers could learn a thing or two from the stand-up legend and sitcom master
Jerry Seinfeld recently caused a stir with his revelation to David Letterman that he refuses to tell any jokes on the stand-up circuit about President Donald Trump.
The comedy legend’s reasoning is sound advice for any comedian wanting to stay relevant and widely popular with the American people.
As LifeZette reported recently, in a teaser for an upcoming episode of the Netflix series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” Seinfeld told the former late-night show host why he won’t pluck the low-hanging fruit of anti-Trump humor.
“Do you do Trump stuff when you go out?” Letterman asked him.
Seinfeld responded, “No, it doesn’t interest me. I do a lot of raisin stuff. I have a lot of raisin material. Because, you know, you have the Sun-Maid company, and you have the Raisinet people.”
Instead of "raisin heck" with cheap and negative partisan humor, the following five comics could stand to benefit from Seinfeld's example of how to be a widely beloved comedian.
1.) Alec Baldwin. The actor has transitioned from a respected Hollywood actor to a polarizing fixture on the long-running television satire show, "Saturday Night Live."
Depicting President Donald Trump as an oafish buffoon, Baldwin regularly goes out of his way to give an acidic, nasty edge to the role.
In a bit of a departure, the left-leaning website Vice News blasted "SNL" for its "unfunny, elitist pieces of liberal propaganda."
Vice author Harry Cheadle wrote, in part:
"At best, the cold opens just echo the same beats and jokes as all those other programs (every good liberal recycles material). At worst, these sketches just coddle the audience by reflecting all of their assumptions and prejudices back at them: Yes, Trump is dumb, his administration is full of venal lackeys ... It's exactly the kind of smug, smarmy bull***t that makes conservatives angry enough at the Hollywood elite to vote Trump just to stick it to them."
Contrast Baldwin's depiction of President Trump with that of "SNL" alum Dana Carvey's affable role as George H.W. Bush in the 1990s.
After telling late-night host Conan O'Brien about the special relationship that formed between himself and the former president, O'Brien noted how Bush handled the gentle mockery, saying he had "a real grace for looking at comedians and seeing the sweetness in it and silliness in it."
Then he added, "It's important in our country."
Carvey replied, "Yeah, they didn't demonize the other side."
2.) Stephen Colbert. The former Comedy Central fixture, famous for his lampooning of ultra-conservatives as a make-believe talk-show host on "The Colbert Report," has brought nothing but a left-leaning bent to the CBS program "The Late Show."
Colbert has dispensed with any pretense of impartiality as a late-night comic, abandoning the opportunistic comedy of former trailblazers of the craft, such as NBC's Jay Leno.
A recent example of the kind of blowback that can occur from professional comedians' moonlighting as political pundits is Colbert's jab at Trump for his diplomatic praise of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
In a desperate attempt to suck all the life out of the indisputably positive story of securing the release three former American hostages, Colbert disputed that Kim Jong-un was maintaining the hostages in "excellent" health as they returned to U.S. territory. The late-night host said, "No, he wasn't. He wasn't 'excellent' to them. And you know the hint that he wasn't? They look happy to be with you. That's how low the bar is. You don't negotiate the release of people from an 'excellent' situation."
Among other things, Colbert is spearheading an anti-Trump cartoon series. This is only further ensuring that Colbert's partisan brand will remain closely tied to CBS as a network. Such bias is hard to compartmentalize for potential viewers looking for a reliable source of hard news.
3.) Trevor Noah. Heir to Jon Stewart's "fake news" Comedy Central series "The Daily Show," Noah appears to conflate comedy with biting commentary, at least when it comes to the Trump presidency.
While Jon Stewart was a left-leaning comic who strayed into right-leaning critique for comedy's sake, Noah is so reliably anti-Trump that his program's ability to draw "curiosity viewers" has reached its zenith and has been on the decline.
A recent segment in which Noah compares Trump to an African dictator is illustrative of the unfunny tack "The Daily Show" has taken during his time as host.
As if proving the point that he is not dabbling in comedy as much as partisan commentary, Noah made the exact same point in an interview on CNN's "Reliable Sources."
When asked if he was surprised by reports that Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, received payments from various companies, Noah said the following, "I've said from the very beginning that Donald Trump reminds me of an African dictator, and if you know anything about African dictators, the first thing that you have to do is follow the money, and you follow the money with the closest people to them."
After "joking" about an imagined African dictator "curing cancer with AIDS," Noah added, "Family members, business associates ... all you do is watch for the money. I would have been disappointed had we not found out or had Michael Cohen not done this."
This isn't comedy. It's blatant partisanship.
4.) Chelsea Handler. One of the most notorious comedians of the Trump era is this one. The television diva, who quit her struggling Netflix series to become an anti-Trump activist, is emblematic of the polarizing bent of today's comedy.
In October 2017, Handler released a statement purportedly explaining her decision:
At the time, Handler wrote, "Like so many across the country, the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me. From the national level down to the grass roots, it's clear our decisions at the ballot box next year will mark a defining moment for our nation."
The comedian added that she would also spend "as much time as I can to becoming a more knowledgeable and engaged citizen."
Since her announcement, Handler said the GOP has "blood on its hands" for the Parkland shooting and an atrocity at a Texas church. Not incidentally, she also blamed California's forest fires on the president.
5.) Michelle Wolf. The comedian showed once again that the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner is like going into hostile territory for any member of a Republican administration. Wolf's acidic comments about White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in particular drew ire for their clearly mean-spirited nature.
Wolf said, "I actually really like Sarah. I think she's very resourceful. She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she's born with it, maybe it's lies. It's probably lies."
She threw in as a kicker, "And I'm never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What's Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter."
Comedy should have unifying and healing qualities — while unfunny attacks on public figures are weakly disguised attempts at political commentary.
Wolf's intro to most of the public is now a vicious attack on officials who garner respect from a significant number of Americans. She squandered this golden opportunity to "wow" audiences with a sophisticated sense of humor and instead made her first impression a highly negative one.
That's the risk a comedian takes when that person strays into political humor. Comedy should have unifying and healing qualities — while unfunny attacks on public figures are just weakly disguised attempts at political commentary.