When Comedy is Not Funny

If you have ever had your wisdom tooth taken out, you know how tempting it is to poke the crater left behind with your tongue. 

There is something satisfying about rolling your tongue where your tooth used to be. Maybe it has something to do with our evolutionary past: Many animals lick their wounds. I'm neither a zoologist nor an evolutionary biologist, so I leave the answer to the experts. Still, I have put my tongue where my wisdom used to be many times, both physically and metaphorically, to know the pain that follows.

Dentists know this phenomenon very well and strongly and explicitly advise you against it. If you lick your dental wound, you might take out the blood clot formed in its place and open it to all sorts of infections. 

Most of our late-night TV hosts are licking the wound left behind after Trump was extracted from the Whitehouse and risking a great deal in doing so.

True, Trump is as far as you can get from a wisdom tooth, not just because he's not a tooth. But the risks are all the same.

Here I'm not talking about Carlson Tucker or Laura Ingraham, who are still recovering from the shock of the election on Fox News. 

I am talking about Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and a few others in their ranks on the left, progressives, liberals, or whatever you feel comfortable calling them. 

These guys are risking the blood clot coming off, and the result will not be pretty.

Firstly, I understand why Jimmy Kimmel cannot let go of Trump. Trump was comedy gold. These TV hosts have never had it so easy: from misspelled, all caps, and toilet-written tweets to ruffled combovers or giving a ride on the Airforce One to a piece of toilet paper, who can resist not making fun of him?

The issue here is that by refusing to let go of their comedy golden goose, they are making three mistakes.

First, they keep Trump on the airwaves constantly. Do you remember when an empty podium was on CNN for 40 minutes because Donald Trump, a joke of a candidate, was about to give a press conference? This is how Trump got the publicity he needed to run, and he got it to everyone else's detriment. Even Jeff Zucker admitted that it was a mistake. This time, however, this is not about Trump. This is about the grip of the populists on the GOP. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gatez are no fools. They grab the headlines by saying outrageously populist things for publicity, not ideology. Giving them air by anyone is a trap, and Mr. Kimmel can't see this trap through the gleeful laughter of his audience.

You might point out that Kimmel and Meyers' audiences will never vote for Ms. Greene, so what's the harm? Well, isn't that the central issue with American politics? That we are so wrapped up in our cocoons that no matter what we see or hear from the other side, we're never going to consider them worthy of our votes. 

This leads me to the second sin of the late-night TV hosts: playing the role they are being assigned in this drama.

The Trumpists on the right have a clear description of their opponents: Elites. 

In their portrayal of the left, the bicoastal elites look down and laugh at the hard-working and honest Americans. They are getting richer through their schemes of globalization and free trade and kicking down those who built America of the past. Immigrants take away whatever opportunities are left for the factory workers of the rustbelt, while the progressives worry about which toilet we can enter.

All the while, the majority on the left still don't have a clear way to describe those who elected Trump in 2016, and as such, they revert to laughing at the stupid things that happen on the margins, thinking the problem was Trump and it is now solved. Hurray! Bring out the champagne, and let's have some harmless fun. 

Making fun of the "hard-working Americans" is precisely what the populists say the elites are doing instead of listening to their grievances. 

Well, guess what, if you successfully position yourself as the champion of the ignored and disgruntled middle America by telling them they are being laughed at, what's the best thing that can happen to you? Jimmy Kimmel from California.

The third issue I take with these times' comedy shows is the missed opportunities. 

Between them, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Trevor Noah have more than 45 million subscribers on Youtube only. That's almost 15% of the US population. Assuming most of that 15% is on the left of the US political divide is not too off the mark. 

Therein, Kimmel et al. have the opportunity of helping to bridge the chasm of US politics. By using their talent in comedy, they can show the more rational and reasonable side of the 150 million of our compatriots instead of focusing on their divisive fringes and playing into the hands of the worst of our politicians. 

Ignoring this opportunity might bring about another round of golden comedy material for the hosts through the election of another ignorant, bigoted, demagog-wannabe with much more than a fake orange tan to make fun of. But in the long run, we're all going to have to pay a higher price to fix what we all broke by our condescension and laughter.