Why Comedy (Like SNL, John Oliver, Sara Cooper) Matters In Terrible Times

Nobody needs a laugh quite like America does. There’s a shell-shock-y look in our eyes, put there by four plus years of Donald Trump and his daily cavalcade of greed, psychosis, corruption and treason. On the one hand, America is not now the country it was when Trump took his oath of office (which he violated the second he took it). Back then, we joked about how awful the country would be if Trump got ahold of it. He aren’t laughing now.

Let’s get one thing clear: Donald Trump has no sense of humor. That’s not my opinion, it’s a fact. Granted what we’re talking about — a sense of humor — is a gossamer bubble that farts — but, as hard to pin down as a sense of humor might be (it’s like a “soul” that way), its presence (or lack thereof) is immediately clear to everyone. The first key piece of evidence that determines whether or not you have a sense of humor is whether or not you can laugh at yourself.

If you can laugh at yourself, you’re in. You have a sense of humor. If you can’t, you don’t. Game over.

It really is that simple. Donald Trump — notoriously — can’t laugh at himself in any way, shape or form. Even his thin skin is thin-skinned. Having no sense of humor doesn’t mean you can’t say funny things — Donald Trump says funny things all the time; he just doesn’t know how to deliver them funny because he’s always looking over his shoulder in fear. This makes him remarkably weak.

The irony of course is that, in a way, comedy motivated Trump to go after the presidency. At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (in 2011), Trump famously bristled when then President Barack Obama joked, “No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. That’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like: Did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

People with no sense of humor, like Trump, can’t see irony; it’s literally invisible to them. You have to be able to laugh at yourself — and see life’s absurdity reflected in your own experience — in order to appreciate irony. Same goes for sarcasm.

Donald Trump may say things that sound funny or ironic but that’s entirely unintentional. Oh, he means for people to laugh at what he says — but that’s because he expects they’re laughing WITH him at whoever he’s laughing at. That’s the big tell as to whether or not you have a sense of humor. Are you capable of laughing WITH people? Or are you only capable of laughing AT them

Bullies like Trump can only laugh AT people.

Comedy — and the past three, Trump-inspired seasons of SNL have epitomized it — decompresses whatever we’re going through. It holds it up for collective analysis, led by the comedian. Comedy’s not just “like” therapy, it is therapy. It’s therapeutic for sure. Even dark-hued laughter, seasoned with skepticism and doubt, still serves a useful purpose.

SNL premieres tonight — and you can almost feel the country counting down the seconds, craving the catharsis all that laughter promises.

The Trump years have been boom years for comedy, in part because Trump can’t laugh at himself. It’s made the Jon Olivers who were already brilliant more brilliant and opened the door to talented people like Sara Cooper and her uncanny ability to tap into Trump’s id..

Good comedy is worth more than laughter. Good comedy shines a spotlight on truth. It points at buffoons (even dangerous buffoons), their lunacy and contradictions, then, for good measure, pulls down its pants.

If anybody needs to be pantsed — regardless of how sick and dangerous he is — it’s Trump.

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