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David Letterman says a thing

Not Letterman, but as close as we could get.

Retired talk show icon David Letterman and his beard are calling on comedy to save us all from “crazy” Donald Trump. But is comedy up to the task? This and more will be part of an upcoming New York magazine print cover story. You can go to Vulture and read a version now, or you can skim the highlights below:

Letterman says Alec Baldwin should get the Medal of Freedom for his recent work on Saturday Night Live, and that Trump is so thin-skinned that Baldwin’s barbs will bring him down. Strangely, Letterman doesn’t mention the work of either Melissa McCarthy or Kate McKinnon on SNL. Retirement apparently hasn’t convinced him that women are funny people too.

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Scratch the above snark: Letterman thinks Tina Fey or Amy Schumer would have been a “fine” replacement for him. (If he’s heard of any other comedians with vaginas he doesn’t mention them.)

Grandpa Dave never heard of her.

He has his own pet name for 45: Trumpy. His refers to Bannon as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” (Someone might warn him this is offensive to hunchbacks.)

He still can’t believe the “doughy” ignoramus he first interviewed back in 1987 is president of these United States, and he feels we should all be afraid, very afraid.

He claims it was the influence of Johnny Carson that kept him from making political jokes for most of his career. It was Jon Stewart who changed all that and made not talking about the politics “the elephant in the room.”

Credits him with changing the game.

Late night hosts now have “an obligation” to make with the funnies about our march toward “dictatorship.” And yes, Jimmy Fallon, he thinks you’re not doing your part!

What can we take away from his wise words?

If David Letterman, rich, white, male, and famous is so scared, then we’re doomed. With all the publicity surrounding this interview (we aren’t the only site covering it), plus recent editorials demanding that Jon Stewart return to television, is it time for some kind Justice League of Late Night Hosts led by these two emerita?

Then again, as funny as the Trump jokes are (they practically write themselves), satire has never actually brought down a government. Did Hitler and Mussolini fall because of Chaplain’s Great Dictator?

This did not prevent World War II.

Remember Bassem Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt? He was forced to take his show off the air, and is now living in the US (at least until ICE figures out he’s here). While some satirists have gone to prison or worse, most authoritarian regimes allow satire because it’s a release valve. Bread and circuses to keep the people happy. Comedy may sometimes “bring down the house”, but it’s unlikely to bring down the White House.

Then again, a Late Night Comedy Justice League does sound like it would be pretty awesome, as long as Samantha Bee and at least one other gal can join, and Jimmy Fallon is barred.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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  • Sean Tadsen

    While I can acknowledge that jokes on late-night shows aren’t going to make Trump collapse, there is one critical difference between Trump and other authoritarian dictators – most of them have a thick enough skin to conceal how much it might bother them. Trump, on the other hand, does not. If anyone makes a joke about him, or anyone in his administration, he hops on Twitter to make sure *everyone* knows about it. And the media (both regular news and late-night shows) constantly pointing out his/ his administration’s failures, short-comings, and general craziness does seem to be getting to him.

  • Toby Clark

    This article brings to mind how every Australian federal election a comedy group called The Chaser give out the Mal Awards to the politicians or candidates responsible for the biggest acts of political suicide on the campaign trail – and how more often than not those politicians will still be re-elected.

  • Olaf_the_Lofty

    Speaking from the other side of the Atlantic: all the satirists seem to be arrayed against Trump, and fair play to them, but they are likely to be preaching only to the converted. In 1961 the English comedian Peter Cook did his part to overturn our notorious “culture of deference” by opening a nightclub, The Establishment, which became famous for its satirical comedy. Asked later what he had intended to achieve, he said something along the lines of “I hoped to do for Britain what the satirists of Weimar Germany had done to prevent the rise of Hitler.”