Late night television has a right to talk about politics, as long as they are funny
November 21, 2017
After a busy day at work or school, some Americans choose to get a few laughs in and watch Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and other late night hosts deliver their monologues. While they cover and joke about a wide range of topics, it is an expectation that they will mention politics at some point. It becomes a battle between those who don’t like politics and those who agree and disagree with what they say.
Jokes about politicians have evolved over the years. Back when David Letterman, Johnny Carson or Jay Leno ruled the late night scene, their quips about America’s politicians were sillier, more based on a characteristic like hair, voice or overall look. (A personal favorite is when Colbert refers to attorney general Jeff Sessions as the Keebler elf.)
There rarely were jokes related to policy, but as people have become more informed and social media has inflated the coverage of politics, this has become more of a focus when hosts write their jokes.
Inherently, informing more people about politics is a good thing. However, there is a section of the populace who watch these shows that are beginning to change the channel. One source of this “protest” on late night is the feeling of left-leaning, anti-Trump bias.
To think that late night hosts should stop turning the negatives of the world and divisive comments made by politicians into positives is part of the problem. The role of a late night host is to allow us to forget about our problems for a few minutes of the day. Sure, the Jimmy Fallons and Kimmels of the world don’t have the skillset to make policy related comedy not only funny but biting. That does not mean they should stop making those same jokes about Trump’s hair or his spray tan. If advertisers are okay with it, networks are satisfied and the ratings are solid, then hosts should continue to have the creative freedom that got them to their spot on television.
A lot of these segments also get solid attention on social media, particularly YouTube. Consistently bringing in millions of views certainly gives the critics of political jokes no credibility.
There is one group of comedians who do have the skills to make boring policy discussion funny and informative, and should never lose their jobs.
They could be categorized as satirists, but in reality, they are all those who followed and branched off from the actions of Jon Stewart. That means, those like Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers or Stephen Colbert should continue to do what they are doing. Meyers had the experience on SNL, Colbert had his own show specifically for making fun of conservative commentary, and Trevor Noah is the current host of the Daily Show.
Not only do these hosts have the knowledge to comment on policy in a sophisticated way, they make politics watchable and funny.
In fact, Jon Stewart inspired Congress to save legislation that set up a health program for September 11th first-responders and survivors that faced health problems after clean up, including cancer. A segment aired one week before the end of the 2010 Senate session on The Daily Show that lambasted lawmakers and urged to pass a common-sense bill to support those who saved lives.
All of these hosts have platforms that are equal or greater to the one Jon Stewart had. Commentary on issues they believe in should not be disgraced. By showing that they have virtues and things they believe in, it only humanizes people who are often considered celebrities. Is it really a bad thing to humanize stars and turn divisive politics into positive laughter?
Yes, the purpose of the shows are for entertainment. Yet, Stephen Colbert does not focus on politics the whole time during his show. He interviews guests, does funny skits and makes you laugh just because. The amount that these hosts truly cover politics can be grossly overestimated.
Hosts have the right to say what they feel they should in accordance with their social standing. People have the right to change the channel, but they should recognize that discussing politics on a comedy show is not a detrimental act and should not be taken as such.