On Feb. 21, Trevor Noah premiered his first stand-up special since becoming the host of The Daily Show, bringing a lot of the content from his show into the hour and seven minute-long Netflix special.
In the special, Trevor Noah: Afraid of the Dark, Noah touches on poignant topics such as sexism, racism and colonialism, according to the description of the special.
Noah doesn’t shy away from expressing his opinions on current events, including the debate surrounding immigration and recently elected President Trump.
“I’ll never forget that moment when Donald Trump closed the lead, had a one-in-two chance of being President of the United States,” Noah says. “And for the first time in my life, I had white Americans coming up to me going, ‘So Trevor, tell me about Africa. What’s going on out there?'”
Since Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration, comedic lampooning of the Trump administration has skyrocketed. TV comedy is paying more attention to this president and his administration than ever before, as evidenced by Saturday Night Live’s increased satire of Trump.
The post-election late night scene, too, has also looked very different recently, with veterans Stephen Colbert (The Late Show) and Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show) taking a backseat to relative newcomers Noah (The Daily Show) and Samantha Bee (Full Frontal) in terms of their political satire.
In other words, there’s never been a better time to be a part — or consumer — of political comedy.
On Nov. 9, the day after the election, Full Frontal ran a segment called “The Morning After” that hit close to home for a lot of people. In the segment, Bee made a few claims as to who was at fault for the outcome, first blaming herself saying that it was the first time she had voted in an American election, and then blaming white people, calling the gentrification of Brooklyn a “dry run.”
Bee also ran a segment called “The Great Unchecked Legislative Fuckfest of 2017” on Feb. 15. In the segment, Bee compares the actions of the current Republican Congress to the actions of “Amish twins on Rumspringa” and says Congress discovering the Congressional Review Act was as excited as “a puppy discovering a dildo.”
But political comedy hasn’t always been approached this way. Take, for example, the response to the administration of former President Barack Obama.
In his 2013 stand-up special Buried Alive, Aziz Ansari tells the story of meeting Obama.
“This dude acts the exact same way I would act if I was the President!” Ansari jokes. He goes on to make more jokes at the former president’s expense, but none of them are ill-intentioned.
Probably the most recognizable piece of comedy that surfaced during the Obama’s presidency is the Key & Peele sketch featuring Jordan Peele’s Obama impersonation and Keegan-Michael Key’s Luther, Obama’s anger translator.
Key’s Luther and Peele’s Obama made their first appearances in the pilot episode of Key & Peele in Jan. 2012, only 11 days after Obama’s second inauguration. Eventually, the sketch become so successful Key made an appearance as Luther at the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner for the real Obama.
When these well-intentioned (and hilarious) forms of comedy are compared with some of the sketches and segments that we have seen since Trump’s inauguration, the level of respect afforded to Obama while he was in office far outweighs that shown to Trump.
Alec Baldwin’s less-than-flattering Trump impression — not to mention the incredible Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer — has dominated recent episodes on SNL, which has reached a more than 20-year high in ratings, as well as my social media feeds.
Comedians during the Obama administration were able to talk about things besides politics because people weren’t always afraid of what the next big political event would be. Not only is the political humor of today more biting; it also has become increasingly more prevalent.
That difference can even be seen in jokes made about Obama since Trump entered office.
In Afraid of the Dark, Noah makes fun of the former president by imitating his mannerisms when getting off of Air Force One and singing “Girrrl, I wanna take you there, give you my Obamacare.” Compare that to his joke about white people asking Noah about Africa following Trump’s election and the difference is obvious.
Many comedians, including Bee and Noah, have experienced ratings boosts since Trump’s inauguration. But just because they are receiving more attention, however, doesn’t mean they are happy about the situation.
“Please don’t write something stupid like ‘What a lucky break a Trump presidency is for comedians, the jokes just write themselves,'” Bee said in her “The Morning After” segment. “No, no , no, shut up, jokes don’t write themselves … and this isn’t good for anyone.”