The Denome’s Advocate: Satire in Today’s Depressing Climate

As I have this summer, I woke up today at 8 a.m., rolled out of bed a couple minutes later and grabbed myself some breakfast. Remembering it was Tuesday, as I sat down to my Frosted Flakes, I contemplated what I would write about this week for my non-satire column, being this one.

There’s been plenty of material to choose from. The whole Sessions fiasco. Trump wanting to pardon himself and the seemingly-inevitable constitutional crisis. What seems to be the conclusion of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And there’s always more stories beneath the surface that deserve just as much coverage as the front-page headlines.

Yet I shook my head as I went through each of these ideas. It’s not that I didn’t hold a strong opinion on each of them. It’s more as if I came down with a sort of news fatigue, like I was tired of all these new stories breaking day after day after day. What bothered me most was that I had to choose which one was most interesting and more problematically, actually write about it.

That’s not to say I don’t love writing. Instead, it’s that it’s getting harder and harder to write about the Trump presidency because it’s so depressing. Whether or not you agree with what Trump is doing in the Oval Office, the coverage that comes out of the press is always downcast and on the offensive. The country’s mood is down in the dumps as well.

This all trickles down to me too. It’s much harder to write about something if your topic is so depressing. And so this morning, I shrugged my shoulders and finished my breakfast thinking about something else.

On the contrary, come Saturday, I’m sure I will be much more excited when it comes time to write my other column, my weekly satirical recap of current events. That’s due in part to the way my columns differ from each other; my serious column sticks to one topic, whereas my satire is a recap and thus, varies in what I’m ridiculing. However, I have other reasons for anticipating my weekly satirical bending of the facts.

As the country and its politics have gotten more and more gloomy, the circus-like aspect of Congress and the presidency have become defining features of the system. In fact, Americans are more concerned about the outlook of the country’s future (Save for a minority of Trump supporters) because of how politics has turned into complete sh-tshow.

But at the same time, such an atmosphere is a boon for a satirist. A year ago, the Trump presidency and resulting fiasco would have been unthinkable and comedians would do stand-up routines about what they thought such an unlikely scenario would look like. Today, those jokes have evolved into those same comedians recalling their mockery of candidate Trump and saying, “Remember when we didn’t have to worry about getting arrested for saying that?”

And over the past months, it’s become clear that comedians do have a role in today’s climate. Shows like those of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and John Oliver have leaped to the top of the ratings. People often quote those comedians not for humor, but because they make legitimate points wrapped in a cover of jokes and laughs.  Even in the Senate, former Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken (D-MN) has become one of the most vocal opponents of Trump.

And to what I just said now, humor can be a medium for actual arguments that make sense. It’s not just funny to call Jared Kushner “Russia’s ambassador to the Trump family,” but also true in several different ways. Additionally, humor engages people in politics who wouldn’t be interested otherwise. If you can explain something in easy-to-understand, humorous wording, people can build on that understanding to learn more about a topic and form their own opinions.

I never would have expected this to be the reality of America a year ago, about when I first started writing satire. I figured that I would be spending at least four years stuck with President Hillary Clinton and my material relying on strange happenings outside of Capitol Hill or 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

But as I observed back in March, shortly after Trump was inaugurated, “I doubt I’ll run out of satirical material, the way this administration has acted so far.” So far this has proven not only true, but an understatement. There’s almost too much to talk about and ridicule.

Thankfully, I’m far from alone in this fight to “Make America Laugh Again.” Thousands of comedians are enjoying a renaissance of sorts because of everything wrong with the country. Starved for a breath of fresh air, normal people have ingrained humor into their daily lives and will likely keep the comedic industry afloat long after Trump is gone.

It just goes to show: If you can’t beat them, figuratively pull down their pants and laugh at them.

The Denome’s Advocate is a weekly political column with a liberal slant.

Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome.

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