January 16, 2019

Trump Versus SNL

“I have been doing stand-up comedy for 20 years and the only time I’ve experienced leaders feeling threatened by jokes was in 2007, when I first toured the Middle East as part of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. The promoters in some of the more autocratic countries we toured told us that we were allowed to make fun of anything we wanted — except sex, religion and their leaders. It didn’t leave us much to talk about. (“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and goodnight!”)

In Egypt one of the promoters told us that Hosni Mubarak’s people had reached out to make sure none of us had any jokes about the president. We didn’t, but a few years later he was overthrown in a revolution anyway. Maybe a few jokes would have been better for him.

Fast forward to 2018. The other day, President Trump tweeted that “Saturday Night Live” and NBC are colluding with Democrats to defame and belittle him, and that their actions “should be tested in courts.” The suggestion was that joking about him might be illegal. When I read this I was shocked. Just kidding. I wasn’t shocked. I haven’t been shocked since Trump said he grabbed women in the privates and people voted for him anyway.

“Saturday Night Live” has been making fun of Republican and Democratic presidents since it started in 1975. From Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford to Darryl Hammond’s Bill Clinton to Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush to Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush to somebody’s Barack Obama. (Does anyone remember who did Obama? He was a pretty bad president for comedy.) The obvious point being — so obvious even Trump has to know this — “Saturday Night Live” makes fun of everyone.”

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