The Current

How liberals are using humour as a weapon against Trump

Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, but they can't control Trump's sensitive skin.
Donald Trump has previously hosted NBC's comedy show Saturday Night Live, but on the other end of the joke, he seems to find comedy hard to swallow. (NBC from CNN online video)

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Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, but they can't control Donald Trump's sensitive skin.

"It is absolutely surreal to see the president elect, and then president of the United States, taking to social media to complain about a comedian's portrayal of him," says Dwayne Booth, a satirist known to his fans as Mr. Fish.

Characterizations of Trump and his allies have proven to be particularly effective in eliciting reactions from the U.S. president.

Melissa McCarthy stole the show as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the Feb. 4, 2017, edition of Saturday Night Live. (SNL/Associated Press)

But comedian Amanda Barker says humorists and satirical programs like Saturday Night Live are giving Trump a taste of his own medicine.

"They have really taken a cue from the Trump administration in that they are doubling down. 'You don't like it Trump. Let's give you more.'"

Humour has functioned as a sweet relief for many on the left who are reeling after the first few weeks of Trump's presidency.

We're laughing wild because we have to. If you don't laugh you'll cry.- Amanda Barker

But beyond its cathartic function, Barker thinks satire is subversive and can be used to mobilize.

"If you look at the history of Saturday Night Live in its first year you had Garrett Morris singing 'I'm going to get me a shotgun and kill all the whiteys I see.' I think we should not negate the power of words like that in terms of change."

Yet looking to humour as a method of political action is not without its dangers.  

 Booth fears satire can further evacuate the political realm of seriousness and integrity.

"It's communicating with Trump on Trump's level. It's a kind of mockery that turns the political conversation into parody and farce. And the question that always brings up with me is: what does that have to do with a strategy on how to really combat it?"

"You're radicalized in your living room and power's fine with that. That's not a threat."

But Barker firmly resists the notion that satire isn't tapped into the issues, or is debasing itself to Trump's standards.

"Comedy only works with the truth … and Trump, whether you like it or not, is the truth that we have right now to work with.'

'I don't think that anyone has made a mockery of Trump. I think he's done a great job of that himself," she laughs. 

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal and Ashley Mak.