I Welcome The Return Of The Court Jesters

[ Posted Thursday, October 5th, 2023 – 15:29 UTC ]

There are plenty of things I could be writing about today, not least among them the horrifying and completely laughable notion of making Donald Trump speaker of the House, but I decided to focus in on the "laughable" part instead. Because I, for one, am immensely pleased that late-night comedy shows are back on the air every night (and, starting this weekend, on Saturday night as well).

I read politics all day long. It's what I do. Then I write about politics. Then I read some more politics. This used to be a fairly normal endeavor, with its amusing moments to be sure but almost always grounded in some sort of reality... and then came Trump. Since he rode down his fake-gold-plated escalator in 2015, the political world has slipped into an alternate universe. Anything can happen now, and it usually does. There is no "normal" anymore. Trump remakes reality into whatever he chooses, and something like half the country goes along with it, no matter how loopy or loony it is. While he was president, this became just a firehose of insanity, meaning that reading about it and trying to keep up became a much more complex job (to put it mildly).

Trump losing office dampened things down to some extent, as did Trump leaving Twitter. The firehose became more of a trickle or drip. But now that Trump is both running for president again and facing so many lawsuits it is hard to keep track of them all, he is once again often the lead story on the news. And Trump has emboldened all the Mini-Me Trumps out there too, so we get craziness from all corners of the Republican caucus (see: the ousting of Kevin McCarthy, for starters). These are the people who are openly pushing for Trump to become speaker of the House because their only metric is: "Would this be fun for Republicans and also annoy the liberals?" and "Speaker Trump" would certainly qualify on both counts.

Which is why taking a break from all this craziness is important, at least to me. When you have to immerse yourself in it day in and day out, you need a little humor to keep from going crazy yourself. And that's what late-night comedians are for.

Because of the writers' strike, late-night television has been set on re-runs for five long months. Part of that was the summer, where breaks in live shows would have occurred anyway, but the effect has been cumulative. A lot happened during those five months. Even if you just count Trump indictments alone, there was a lot going on.

Monday night, the night that late-night comedy returned to the airwaves, the various hosts covered the gap in different ways. Some just hit the high points. Some have been sort of spreading stuff out over the week. But the most amazing effort came from Seth Meyers, whose "A Closer Look" segments usually run maybe 10 minutes long as they focus in on (mostly) political stories of the day. They are fast-paced and witty, and they're my personal favorite part of watching late-night.

Monday night, Seth spent his entire show on a marathon "A Closer Look -- To The MAX." It clocks in at 30 minutes long. The first couple minutes are just the setup, where Seth runs down the stories the segment will be covering. Usually this is maybe two or three big stories and a couple minor ones thrown in. This time, obviously, he had more ground to cover (you have to listen close, because of how fast he delivers it all).

While watching it I sat back and basked in the glow, personally. This is what has been missing from my life for the past five months!

Sure, this is silly, at its heart. That's the point, actually. To hear others make fun of the political foibles of the day is a mental relief valve, for me. Missing that relief valve was stressful. I can't be the only one who feels this way, either. Two or three decades ago, I was astonished to learn that most people in America got all their news (including political news) from late-night television. It topped television news, print media, the internet, everything.... Back then, streaming didn't exist, so television was pretty much it for live entertainment. But once I got into the habit of watching late-night, I began to understand it. The comedians couldn't make jokes about politicians without explaining the situation to some degree. The setup imparted information, to put it another way, that a lot of the viewers weren't getting from any other source. So you learned all the political news of the day -- especially the funniest bits of news.

The media world is different now, of course. I haven't seen any polling recently, but late-night comedy must have declined in viewership along with most of the rest of broadcast television. But now at least you don't even have to stay up late -- because it's all streamed online the next morning. You can watch any old time, which just wasn't possible before.

In any case, no matter how many viewers are still left, I am definitely one of them. The function of "court jester" is an important one in politics and government. They poke fun at government and political leaders while remaining immune from the wrath of the king. Trump whines about late-night comedians constantly (he started up again this week), and they just turn it into more laughs the next night. That is how it is supposed to work.

The ability to laugh at the absurdities of life is important. I fully believe that. Plus, the comedic relief from immersing myself in politics is welcome indeed. So while there were indeed more serious subjects I could have tackled today, I thought it was important to offer up my thanks to all of those who work to bring me a few laughs at the end of the day. I hope the writers got a fantastic deal from their strike, because they are definitely worth it. My life feels like it is back in balance again.

And I can't wait to see what Saturday Night Live does this weekend.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “I Welcome The Return Of The Court Jesters”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    What I just sent to my representative:

    Find a group of at least eight members from each party, who want the House to actually function. Agree on some basic points, about having the chamber at least do the bare minimum of what our legislature owes us as a country. Go to the leadership of each party. Make it clear to each that you're also capable of going to the other, and still holding together. Elect a speaker who will do the job, and make it so that they can. It should be a Republican, because they have the majority. But make sure each party's leaders know that you're willing and able to get behind a speaker from the other party if that's what it takes to have a House of Representatives instead of a national embarrassment.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    amen, dan.

  3. [3] 
    dsws wrote:

    The second layer of my message in [1] is about institutional legitimacy, and accepting that the other sides (there really are always more than two, even though our winner-take-all plurality system forces an artificial reorganization into only two) sometimes win. My representative is one of the leftmost in the House, and I want her to be actively involved in getting the Democratic caucus to vote for a Republican speaker. I want her to accept that there's going to be a Republican speaker, just because the Republicans won a majority of House districts in the last election.

    No matter what I think of them, they won those elections. This kind of recognition is exactly what the MAGAts are most notably against.

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