TV

Trump is no laughing matter

Comedy and talk show production staff overwhelmed by US President's antics

If you thought the election of US President Donald Trump has been a gift for comedians, think again.

Just as news media outlets struggle to keep pace with the controversies and personalities at the White House, comedy writers, producers, and talk show hosts have scrambled to process material that a year ago appeared to be a comedy gold mine, but which some no longer see as a laughing matter.

"People say, you comedians must be so happy about Trump,"said Miles Kahn, writer and producer on Samantha Bee's Full Frontal late-night talk and news satire show on TBS.

"I don't think any of us are. We're scared. We get very anxious, we're kept on edge and when you're anxious it's really hard to concentrate and write something funny," Kahn said.

Full Frontal is competing for a variety talk series Emmy this year in a tight race that includes late-night shows featuring Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Bill Maher, who all have relentlessly attacked Trump and his policies.

The 69th Emmy Awards airs live today on StarWorld (StarHub TV Ch 501/Singtel TV Ch 301) and on video streaming service Fox+ from 8am, with a repeat telecast at 6.30pm.

Asked about the plethora of Trump material, Bee said: "As citizens, we would actually ask for less... We have what we have, so we make what we can out of it."

Colbert's skewering of Trump sent ratings soaring for his The Late Show and helped win him the job of hosting this year's Emmys.

After its most-watched season in 23 years, sketch show Saturday Night Live received 22 Emmy nominations.

Melissa McCarthy's impersonations of former White House press secretary Sean Spicer already snagged her a guest actress Emmy last week, while Alec Baldwin's take on Trump and Kate McKinnon's spoofs of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway are in the race.

In a nation divided by the 2016 presidential election, comedy fills a vital role, even if laughter is sometimes being replaced by outrage, said Prof Dannagal Young, associate professor of communications at the University of Delaware.

"Comedy has a history of making light of tragedy. A lot of people are looking to these shows to make sense of the political world, to find some kinship with other people watching and in recognising the insanity for what it is," Young said.

TV comics like Bee, Colbert, Oliver and Seth Meyers, host of Late Night With Seth Meyers, have been so hard-hitting that their material sometimes "comes close to being didactic, and not cheerful", Prof Young said.

In August, Meyers called Mr Trump a "lying racist".

In May, Colbert said Mr Trump has "more people marching against (him) than cancer".

Meanwhile, Emmy-nominated shows like White House comedy series Veep and nefarious Washington drama House Of Cards are in danger of being sidelined.

"I have been a huge fan of House Of Cards, but I've not even started watching the new season because I don't have room for the fictional version. I'm already overflowing with the real version," Prof Young said. - REUTERS

comedydonald trumpawards