Jokes about the President-elect might work on a national stage — for the writers of SNL, or any late-night talk show — but stand-up comics braving local open mics and flyover state crowds say that Donald Trump jokes just aren’t working.
According to comics who spoke with the Boston Herald, audiences are either too on edge or too solemn and depressed to take Trump jokes well — even if Trump himself is a wealth of hilarious material. The political makeup of even urban crowds can vary, and Trump’s supporters don’t find jabs at their man very funny.
“To even lightly joke about Trump leads Trump supporters to assume you are a Hillary supporter and the hatred ensues,” said Judy Sloan, a Boston-based comedian. “You run the risk of losing half of your audience — actually, less than half, based on popular vote — but it’s just not worth it.”
But it’s no easier, they say, poking fun at the President-elect in front of friendly liberal crowds. After the last election, audiences are so dejected about the results, and Hillary Clinton’s “heartbreaking” loss, that they’re exhibiting all of the raucous behavior of a tragic funeral. One comic even compared the crowd tenor following November’s surprise results to the way audiences reacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“People are kind of on edge,” said stand-up comedian, Steve Sweeny. “There’s a lot of anger in the emotional climate. We were all looking forward to a sense of relief when this thing was over. But it’s not.”
Indeed, this phenomenon is playing out even on national stages. Amy Schumer was booed by “hundreds” of Trump supporters at a gig in Florida after she made a political proclamation about the Republican nominee.
Wanda Sykes, who isn’t even a very political comic, was booed offstage at a cancer charity benefit after she called Trump racist, sexist and homophobic (though, admittedly, that bit of improv may not have been part of her act).
It’s gotten so bad that, in some places, comics are turning to professional consultants for advice on how to tag Trump. One suggested that jokes should be so carefully crafted that the audience won’t be able to tell what side of the fence you fall on.
“The good ones are the ones that tell the jokes, and you can’t really tell which side of the aisle they’re on,” he said. “If it’s an overly one-sided rant one way or the other, then I think the crowd can turn on you.”