It’s comedy’s ‘duty’ to lampoon Donald Trump, even if it’s starting to get repetitive and he does such a good job of it himself.
That was the view among panellists at Brunel University London’s Comedy, Populism and Trump debate on Wednesday with TV comic Andy Hamilton and Booker Prize winning comic writer Howard Jacobson.
Admitting to being ‘Trumped out’, Andy Hamilton, who specialises in topical satire like TV’s Have I Got News For You, said the challenge comics face with Trump is novelty.
“It is difficult to make any original observations about him because he is quite a crude character,” said Hamilton. “He’s an archetypal comic figure, a self-aggrandising delusional fantasist.”
The comic agreed with the University of Kent’s Sophie Quirk, who noted that comedy offers a comfort blanket when things start to get scary.
And with ‘the most stupid person who ever lived in charge of the world’, as Howard Jacobson put it, scary times are upon us.
“You laugh at something which is absurd but frightening, and it shrinks the fear,” said Hamilton. “But the state we’ve reached has got quite repetitive. And with Trump, it is hitting the repeat button because he doesn’t care about anyone or anything else.”
It’s comedy’s job to highlight how dangerous the situation is, Hamilton said. He argued that a lot of middle-class Americans voted for ‘the mutant progeny of the move towards celebrity obsessed politics.’ “It would be foolish to think that it could not happen here,” he warned.
Jacobson said even silent movie slapstick legend Charlie Chaplin would be challenged to be sillier than Trump. “He’s the most stupid person that ever lived,” he said pointing out Trump’s latest awkward handshake moment at a Philippines summit for South Asian leaders. “He doesn’t even know how his own body works. He’s phenomenally stupid,” Jacobson let rip.
There must be non-stop derision,” Jacobson urged, “otherwise it will start to feel normal to have the most stupid person who ever lived in charge of the world.”
The discussion was put on for Parliament Week 2017 by the Brunel-based Centre for Comedy Studies Research and Magna Carta Institute. It saw a string of academics mull over comedy’s take on the president, including Brunel Professors Jeffrey Karp and Magna Carta director, Justin Fisher.
“It was both illuminating and funny,” said organiser Dr Simon Weaver, “not just comedy about Trump, but the state of political discourse and society today.”
Events coming soon from the Centre for Comedy Studies Research and the Magna Carta Institute include ‘Is that funny?’: Comedy and Politics / Politics and Comedy, February 18, at Leicester Comedy Festival and Comedy, Populism and Brexit at The Museum of Comedy, March 2.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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