Political humor today: when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry

political humor is tough these daysHow do you deal with this new Republican administration? Political humor has never been more important; I would venture to guess that it’s also never been harder.

Many comedians report that laypeople have told them to look on the bright side: “This administration will be comedy gold!” Well, yes, if you enjoy your political humor with a side of nuclear annihilation. I’d rather laugh less and live longer. I think many comedians would too.

The people I feel sorriest for (other than all of us—what with the nuclear annihilation and all) are political satirists. With all the bizarre, formerly unthinkable things happening in real life, regular news reports are beginning to sound like satire. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the folks who make their living by dreaming up absurdities.

And some things just aren’t funny. Samantha Bee’s and Stephen Colbert’s humor have sustained me through these crazy times. But Colbert told one joke months ago—maybe as far back as the primaries—that’s stuck in my head like a tuneless earworm. He said—and I’m probably not quoting him correctly:

“This could be an historic election. Hillary Clinton could become our first female president. And Donald Trump could become…our last president.”

I think I snorted derisively at the punchline. Now? Ouch. At the time, I thought he meant that Trump would become a dictator. Now I think about nuclear annihilation. That’s the power of a well-crafted joke: it can mean so many things.

And that’s the problem with political humor today. If Colbert’s joke were a Facebook post, I’d have trouble deciding between the laughing and crying emojis. Hey, Mark Zuckerberg, we need an emoji for “I’d be amused if I weren’t also nauseated”?

Political humor with rhythm & rhyme

That new emoji would come in handy when reading my friend’s daily limericks. After numerous requests from his Facebook readers, he’s collected them on a blog, TrumPoetry: A Lament in Limericks, and I commend them to your attention. He’s chosen to remain anonymous in the blogosphere so I shall not out him here. All you really need to know is that he’s got a keen grasp of poetic meter, a finely honed sense of irony, and a working internet connection.

My favorite—and also, in this complex world, least favorite—is the verse he penned after the Russian-consulting General Lynch was forced to resign:

His speech is a train of digressions
Leaving untruthful impressions
He can lie with impunity
‘Cause he’ll get immunity
From Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Impeccable rhymes. And the last line—it’s as if Mama and Papa Sessions planned for their baby boy to be immortalized in a limerick. Clever, absolutely. Funny? Maybe. If it weren’t so likely to be true.


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