The More Political Late Night Comedians Get, The Farther Their Ratings Go Down

After the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, talk radio went into a fever pitch. Now, it’s the late night comedians who have decided that the sky falls just a little bit more every day that Donald Trump remains in the Oval Office.

There’s a lesson to be learned here about modulating one’s volume.

Columnist Camille Paglia wrote in 2009:

Talk radio has been seething with such intensity since Barack Obama’s first week in office that I am finding it very hard to listen to it. How many times do we have to be told the sky is falling? The major talk show hosts, in my opinion, made a strategic error in failing to reset at lower volume after Obama’s election. When the default mode is feverish crisis pitch, there’s nowhere to go, and monotony sets in.

In the case of the late night comic, monotony has definitely set in.

When Kathy Griffin posted a picture of herself holding Trump’s bloody, severed head in her hand, people decried it as beyond the pale, but it also lowered the bar. It made acceptable all manner of tasteless jokes about President Trump.

Relentless nastiness with no signs of abating from late night comedians

There is no sign of relief from the nastiness that pours out. Everything Trump does pushes the outrage meter up to 11.

Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Bill Maher, Jimmy Kimmel, and even the previously apolitical Jimmy Fallon, spend their hours haranguing the American people about how awful their president is. Alec Baldwin’s ubiquitous Saturday Night Live Trump impression was kind of fun at first, but now it feels more like a lecture than a comedy skit.

It’s not just the unwashed masses who are starting to notice. Comedian Norm Macdonald, in an interview with vulture.com, highlighted the problem:

I can’t see making jokes with that fever behind them for so long before the whole thing collapses into itself. I don’t want to watch things about Trump in real life, so I definitely don’t want to watch it in comedy. If I see that stuff, I change to ESPN.

Donald Trump correctly points out that late night comedians’ ratings are down

Johnny Carson used to pull in about 9 million viewers a night at a time when the population in the United States was considerably smaller. Stephen Colbert, the current late night king, averages only 3 million a night.

This is consistent with the kind of partisan audience Colbert is attracting, but it’s a far cry from the kind of common bond American viewers used to share when it came to late night comedy.

Remember the days when nobody was sure if Johnny Carson was a Republican or a Democrat? Colbert doesn’t, and neither do any of his competitors.

The Tonight Show, the pioneer program of late night comedy, built its reputation on taking the mickey out of politicians of every stripe. It’s entirely appropriate for funnymen to poke fun at the president. But today, nobody is having any fun.

(Photo of then-candidate Donald Trump and Stephen Colbert in better days. Trump appeared on the Tonight Show on September 22, 2015, early in the Republican primary campaign.)


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