This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
Seth Meyers Does Trump Jokes Better Than Anybody
I’ve always appreciated how interested Seth Meyers is in my mental health.
It’s hard to describe a comedian or late-night host’s brand, what their “thing” is, their take on comedy. But with Meyers, the sense I’ve always gotten is that his point of view is something like, “You know you’re not crazy…right?” I’m not particularly proud of how often I need to be reassured of this, but it probably explains why I tend to gravitate towards Meyers’ comedy, his late-night show above all the others, and now his Netflix special, Lobby Baby.
I first noticed this about Meyers’ humor when he was at the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” desk with Amy Poehler and they had their recurring segment, “Really?!?” What a novel and, it turns out, calming concept: Lay out the bullshit from the week that’s had us all turning into that version of Fred Flintstone where he’s gotten so annoyed by the world that his face turns red and steam comes out of his ears—and then just say what we’re all thinking. REALLY!!!??
It is deeply upsetting to me that the cartoon character I’ve come to identify with most as an adult is a pissed-off Fred Flintstone, and not, as I once hoped, a mix between Captain Planet and Jessica Rabbit—a combination of aesthetics that I rule to be the perfect person. But, anyway, Seth gets that about me.
His “Closer Look” segments on Late Night With Seth Meyers continued this mission. You know the feeling: You’re watching the news and something just doesn’t seem…right. Seth knows that, too! “Closer Look” is a combination journalistic-comedic study, the findings of which are, usually, “Take a deep breath, Kevin, you’re not insane.”
This has, it goes without saying, been invaluable in the Trump era. Meyers, too, has become, for me, the best late-night host when it comes to addressing, on a daily basis, the fever-dream demented acid-trip dystopian nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong. I admire Stephen Colbert’s righteousness and Samantha Bee’s gasket-blown anger. But those scratch at an itch without satiating it. What I really need, it turns out, is Meyers’ brand of “WTF is going on, this is outrageous, you know this is outrageous, how come everyone isn’t saying it’s outrageous, am I right?” Yes! Yes, you are!
All of this is important to note, as Meyers has heard some critics’ exasperation over the domination of Trump and political content in his material—in everyone’s material—and instituted a feature in Lobby Baby, his first Netflix stand-up special, that allows you to skip the political segment of his act. Some people turn to comedy for a respite from the madness of the world-on-fire, and he’s willing to lend you that sanctuary.
Lobby Baby, by and large, is that safe space, a hilarious hour mostly dedicated to his relationship with his wife and the extraordinary births of his two sons. (One was 15 minutes away from being born in an Uber. The other was delivered in the apartment building’s lobby.)
Trump jokes only amount to less than 10 minutes of the set. But your sanity is of utmost importance to Seth Meyers, so he has figured out a way for you to skip them. You shouldn’t! They’re great.
“I appreciate that there are people who think that there are too many jokes about Donald Trump,” he says. “They say, ‘When are the jokes about Donald Trump going to stop?’ And the only thing I’ll say is that the jokes are the only good part about living through the Trump era.”
It’s refreshing to hear Meyers concede that, after so many years of comics and writers gravely saying there’s no pleasure to be taken in the font of humor material that is Donald Trump. “Living through the Trump era without any jokes would be like getting a prostate exam and not wanting the results.”
He talks about the people who credit him—or blame him, rather—for Trump’s presidency, after hurting his feelings at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He laughs about how disappointed Canada must be, after listening to all those people proclaim they’d move there if Trump was elected, only to discover that no one was serious. He mocks conservative Christians who truly believe Trump is a religious man.
“Based on the kind of show I do and because it’s a show about politics, people have been coming up to me so much over the last few years and saying, ‘Oh my god this Trump presidency must be so good for you. How good is this Trump presidency for you?’” he says.
“And I hate that because having people feel as though I’m benefitting from this. I feel as though I’m a gravedigger in the Middle Ages and people are coming up to me like, ‘Oh my god, this plague must be so good for you. How good is this plague?’ And I have to say, well, obviously we’re very upset about the plague, but it has been very good for business.”
I can’t speak for Meyers’ business, but I can speak to the impact he’s had on my own emotional health as my comedy spirit guide through the gauntlet of Living in 2019. Of course I could be actually insane, Meyers may have no real vested interest in my well-being, and I’ve been slowly, methodically irritating everyone around me for years. Who can say, really. Really!?