Mixing Politics and Jokes

In the article “How Jokes Won the Election” by Emily Nussbaum, she explains one of the more perplexing and perhaps unsettling aspects of this election cycle – the intersection between jokes and politics. For many people around the world, Donald Trump’s campaign was effectively viewed as a particularly long running joke up until November 9th. This notion is not very surprising, especially when you look towards programs like SNL which frequently runs wild with the material Trump gives when speaking.

The joke of Donald Trump continued with the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape. What would be considered career ending for most transformed into an opportunity to say the word “pussy” at any available opportunity. Because the tape was instantly treated as a joke any effort to explain the obvious problem associated with having a President who gropes women was waved away with a, “Can’t you take a joke?” or a “He didn’t mean it.” Suddenly and without realizing it, refusing to laugh and play along made you the subject of criticism. Emily Nussbaum touches on this by writing,

“The political journalist Rebecca Traister described this phenomenon to me as “the finger trap.” You are placed loosely within the joke, which is so playful, so light—why protest? It’s only when you pull back—show that you’re hurt, or get angry, or try to argue that the joke is a lie, or, worse, deny that the joke is funny—that the joke tightens. If you object, you’re a censor. If you show pain, you’re a weakling.”

Now, Trump has made his displeasure with SNL and other media outlets obvious by tweeting things like, “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks! Media rigging election.” This raises a few important questions:

How do you think people could combat others treating everything Trump does like a joke when what he says has consequences now? Should people be concerned that Trump will try to limit what people say about him in the future? Are people making fun of Trump in order to laugh off nervousness and feel relief or is it something more?


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