Saturday, April 1, 2017

Late Night Under the Trump Administration

I've avoided talking about the Trump administration over the past few months, because frankly it's all been difficult to process, and even harder to react to intelligently in the context of this blog. I've taken pains over the years to avoid being political here, limiting any overtly political commentary to only the most extraordinary events. However, what's been going on in Washington has been extraordinary by any definition, and the news media has become a never-ending deluge of alarming headlines, day in and day out. It's having an impact on everything and everyone, and to ignore that completely would be disingenuous of me.

So, let's talk about late night comedy, which has been utterly transformed these past few months. Stephen Colbert's "Late Show" has become a ratings champ, and Samantha Bee and "The Daily Show" have also gotten big audience boosts lately. It makes me feel less guilty for having essentially abandoned late night viewing completely. I still watch the occasional Colbert Youtube clip, and good for CBS for making those monologues so immediately accessible, but I couldn't bring myself to keep watching "THe Daily Show" after Trump's inauguration. The additional twenty minutes of doom and gloom every night was just too much after reading the horrific headlines all day. Sorry, Trevor. I stuck it out as long as I could. Your "TIME" cover looks fab though.

Still, it's great to see the nation's most prominent comedians taking such an active stand against this administration's absurd behavior. Seth Meyers on "The Late Late Show" has become a reliable source of critical commentary. Jon Stewart resurfaces occasionally on Colbert to put in his two cents, most recently after the White House started antagonizing the non-right wing news media. John Oliver shows no signs of slowing down. And it's really heartening that "Saturday Night Live" has suddenly become true "must-see" viewing again. Many of my Sunday mornings have included catching up on the best sketches from the previous night. Alec Baldwin's Trump has been fun, but Melissa McCarthy's appearance as hostile press secretary Sean Spicer was instantly iconic, and more importantly it really seems to have gotten under Trump's skin.

The rest of the U.S. entertainment industry has also been comfortingly anti-Trump. Some found the awards season grandstanding distasteful, but I was grateful for the celebrity outrage, helping to confirm that I wasn't going crazy and there was ample cause for alarm. Highlights included Meryl Streep calling out the Muslim ban at the Golden Globes, Patrick Stewart pledging to become an American, famous faces showing up at several of the women's marches, and even Samuel L. Jackson taking Ben Carson to task for referring to African slaves as immigrants recently. I've bemoaned the outsized importance that Twitter suddenly has on U.S. politics, but it's a two-way street. Whatever insane missives that Trump and company want to volley via tweet can be lobbed right back at them almost instantly.

As the Trump controversies have continued to pile up, and the U.S. political system continues to be stress tested, I've actually started feeling a little better. A part of me is still wondering when I'm going to wake up, but the rest of me has largely gotten over the nasty shock, and it's clear what my goal for the next four years is going to be: fight. Fight back against the intolerance, the hatred, the greed, and the fear that the Trump administration has spent far too much time encouraging. Fight back against the complacency, the cowardice, and the weakness of those who are trying to appease them. Fight against my own urges to be quiet, keep my head low, and wait for the storm to blow over.

Don't worry. This will remain a media blog, and I'll maintain my policy of only writing about politics when it's relevant to media. However, I'm through with trying to appear non-partisan or pretending that everything is okay. I am not okay, and my country is not okay. It's time to engage and start getting involved in the discussion. And I guarantee that the larger media is going to start reflecting this soon, not just on late night and the cable news.

And I have no doubt that I'll be a "Daily Show" viewer again eventually. I never could stay away for very long.

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