In his article, “Will comedy save us in the age of Trump?” Jonathan Coe challenges the effectiveness of satire in today’s unfamiliar political landscape. Satire is based on portraying elements of everyday life, but emphasizing their absurdity in a caricature-like fashion. But if our reality is already absurd, and our satirists simply create laughable representations of this absurdity, we could hardly call that “satire”, could we? Political satirists have their cut out for them when our president behaves absurdly of his own accord. For instance, before the Washington Post got their hands on the 2005 tape of Trump displaying his best “lockerroom talk”, no one would have anticipated the word “pussy” to be such a regular part of our political vernacular (my grandmother is blushing in her grave). Trump keeps outdoing us.
Coe suggests instead that a lens of magical realism might be more appropriate for depicting pivotal times like these, in which reality is already absurd. Indeed, I question the value of Alec Baldwin’s depictions of Trump. Though wildly popular and pleasurable for a liberal audience to watch, Alec Baldwin’s representation of Trump exaggerates his facial expressions, apparent lack of intellect, and awful hairstyle; but skirts the root of the issue: his frightening political and social views. Regardless of his stupidity, he poses a real threat to many Americans and his power should not be trivialized.
After Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and Jordan Peele’s Barack Obama, Alec Baldwin’s likeness to Trump is so tempting that it would have seemed a missed opportunity to not have him purse his lips and have a little fun. But the effectiveness of simply impersonating Trump, I believe, is severely limited. Trump is clearly unafraid of appearing uncouth. Making fun of him for his stupidity, instead of regarding his open racism and misogyny as a serious problem that will have serious consequences, is a privilege we may not have for long.
Instead, I would argue that the “aggression-dismantling capabilities” of humor that Romanienko mentions in her case study of the “Orange” Solidarity Movement could be put to better use in today’s political environment. According to Negin Farsad’s TEDTalk, the value of comedy in a political setting is that the process of laughing enters the audience into a state of openness, during which the comedian is more able to insert new ideas into peoples’ imaginations. Though Alec Baldwin’s Trump might be fun to watch, the ideas of Trump being incompetent, Putin’s puppet, and maybe peeing in abnormal ways, hardly seem new or challenging to anyone.
Romanienko argues that, as in the Soviet Union, humor can be used to foster trust between groups and to challenge rank at the same time. In an age of widespread xenophobia, hate, and paranoia, what use is another white male on the screen, pretending to be a stupid white male? Instead, this is a time when we need more than ever to be exposed to a wide range of ethnic, religious, and ideological personas onstage – and it wouldn’t hurt if they were funny, either.