Political humor isn’t new, nor are White House Correspondents Dinners, nor is political satire. All these avenues of humor and satire help illuminate what are the ironies and central themes in our culture. Their existence, while not always the most constructive, allows Americans to see the durability of their democracy. Can a comedian speak out on the issues related to the media? Can a comedian speak out on the injustices occurring in America? Can a comedian speak out about what he or she deems are the most important issues?
Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner was very interesting, in that she was often met with groans and quiet. Wolf’s best jokes were about Trump administration officials and the media. While most Presidents utilize the White House Correspondents Dinner to allow themselves to both be a joke and joke about how the media covers their presidency, President Trump sees this time to generate rallies which allow him to get the adoration he seems to need to continue to do the job.
Wolf’s most telling jokes were about the media, at least from my frame of reference. She talked about the commercialization of Trumpism. This idea that while the media seems to really dislike or maybe hate Trump, they have profited immensely from the effects of Trumpism on America.
President Trump has yet to be able to take a joke, a construct we learn at an early age to deal with our own limitations or shortcomings in life. Yet, the man occupying the highest office in the land, sees political humor and satire as a slight on his Presidency.
Humor and satire, from editorial cartoons to late night political comedy, give America an ability to be self-reflective about this time and history. If you’ll note, most of the satire and humor about past presidents is so specific that it’s impossible at times to remember the construct or situation that led to the joke.
The greatest real ability we have to measure the democracy’s durability is humor. In an age where we’ve seen lots of movement towards lying, attacking the free press, and autocratic tendencies from an President, the humor and satire that makes up much of the White House Correspondents Dinner allows us to see truly what’s become of the republic established in 1776. Will it continue to be durable under the duress of a Presidency encumbered by scandal? Let’s hope so.