How President Trump Has Ruined Comedy
My name is Daniel O'Brien. I've had sex in over two different countries and engaged in some light, patriotic hand stuff in four. I used to write a weekly column for the comedy website Cracked Dot Com, and now I am its Creative Director of Video and Content Development, because ever since my boss left, there has been no one around to stop me from adding words to my title, which I do all the time and without warning.
On the day that I started writing this article, I count seven pieces of content on the front page of Cracked which are explicitly political, and two which directly mention President Trump in the title and feature him in the thumbnail. In 2017, under my leadership as the Creative Director of Video, Content Development, and Espionage, we launched two new shows to cover the current administration: the short-lived After The Trump and the still-living Some News. We have always (always) talked about politics on this site, but we did not have equivalent content during either the Obama or Bush administrations. That is definitely true. On that score, we have changed.
A lot of people say they appreciate the political coverage we've done, but a few have expressed that they'd rather we avoid politics, and have done so in tones ranging from politely respectful to ... less so.
Some people tweet or reach out to us to say "I miss when Cracked was just funny" or "I came here to get AWAY from politics" or "Bring back The Daily Nooner" or
"You should just stick to comedy."
Here's the thing: I completely agree with you.
I also wish I could just do stupid fucking jokes again. Honestly, I think I'm better at them than I am as a contributor to Some News or shrieking about voter fraud. As important as that topic is to me (very, please go to Let America Vote to learn how you can help), I'd much rather it be covered by someone smarter than me while I focus on what I'm better at (which would be, gun to my head, 1,500 words of dialog-driven nonsense starring a fictionalized version of myself who can't spell and is also a war criminal).
And is that a surprise to you? Haven't you followed me? Don't you think I'd rather be talking about Spider-Man and my stupid, stupid dick? I would!
I don't want to cover Hillary Rodham Clinton substantively; I want to make jokes like "The 'Rodham' in her name is short for "'Rodney Hampton.'" That's as political as I'd like to be, but the realities of our world make it sort of impossible to stay out of politics, so I bought her friggin' book instead. A few years ago, you could ask me about comics. Today I'm ready to host a boring conference on What Happened, Giant Of The Senate, The Devil's Bargain, and whatever that piece of shit Ben Sasse called his piece-of-shit book. And I hate that about me.
You have to understand something. When we accidentally gave a flailing, possum-faced, rotting egg the most important job in the world, the people at Cracked didn't say, "Aha! Finally an opportunity for us to pivot away from nonfiction comedic list articles and strange personality-driven columns to focus on our true love: a thoroughly researched topical news show about Nazis, Antifa, the works of Jean Paul Sartre, and the troubling ways those three things intercept in our increasingly terrifying world. Haw!" I don't want to do that. None of us want to do that. We want to walk around the office pronouncing it "Jean Paul Star Trek" and then write videos about a man who got confused and had sex with a pumpkin at an adult pumpkin-carving party, which isn't even a thing that exists.
You've no doubt seen a similar call to keep politics out of sports over the last few weeks. An historically unprecedented amount of football players and (lol) owners are kneeling or engaging in some other kind of protest to oppose either the president generally or the shooting of unarmed black men by police. (It's not super clear at this point. It certainly began with the latter and seems to be getting hijacked by the former.) "I support the idea of the protest, but keep your politics out of sports," is a sentiment you've no doubt seen.
They want us to stick to jokes, and I would LOVE to stick to jokes. I don't know any professional football players personally, but I bet they'd also prefer to just play football. I bet they also long for a time when their Sundays were spent running and hitting and throwing and catching as hard as they can without the added stress of figuring out where they fit into a national, historical movement. It would be easier for them if there was no politics in football, because before there were politics in football, they didn't have to think about kneeling or not, and they didn't have to deal with the booing if they did. But now they have to consider it. As Jason pointed out months ago, even keeping politics out of sports (or pop culture or writing) is itself a political move.
(Also, we should, uh, probably cancel football. Goddammit I hate my growing awareness and responsibility!)
Politics is everywhere and everything is political. Which sucks for me, because I'm an idiot. I'm not some politics guy, I'm Deany O'Beanz, Cracked.com's Creative Director of Upside-Down Sex Stuff. Believe me, when Wendy's unveiled their new Bacon Mozzarella Burger last year, I wanted to write a parody song of the opening number to Hamilton, changing the lyrics from "Alexander Hamilton" to "Mozzarella Hamburger," but our president told us all to boycott Hamilton, so now even mentioning it feels like a political statement.
The two dolla', flavor-hauler with fresh garlic/
is a steal, darlin', they are for real chargin'/
a measly two dollas. I am a food scholar.
Believe me, this shit is Delicious Incarnate.
I mean, you get it, that's airtight, you love it, this shit would have been glorious.
I miss doing pointless jokes like that. I would rather be writing columns about dumb internet stuff and other weird things that used to occupy my brain. I miss doing jokes making fun of bad websites. I would still be making fun of bad websites if we had a better president. Like John Mayer's haunted fucking nightmare self-indulgent dream wall. Look at this child's sandbox of a website:
If you move the cursor around, John Mayer's stupid eyes follow you all over town.
Nice website, dickface. Does the strap around your stupid head featuring vaguely Native American imagery represent your plan to appropriate another culture with your music? Your album's called Search For Everything. Do you actually find anything, or is it mostly going to be a bunch of songs about fucking on a Sunday or whatever and realizing for the first time at 23 years old that the girls you have sex with will eventually turn into the mothers you won't? You've got a bunch of dumb spinny art on your website. You, uh ... suck. Hahahahaha.
That was just off the top of my head. If this were three years ago, I'd have squeezed, no joke, 6,000 words out of this website. But things being what they are, I only went to this website after John Mayer posted a surprisingly cogent argument for gun control in the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.
Dammit! That's where I'm at! Global Source of Ridicule and Professional Annoying Guy at a Party John Mayer only made his way to my radar because he was talking about sensible gun control.
All I want to do is talk to you all about The Property Brothers, a show I'm obsessed with. For those who don't know, Property Brothers is a reality show allegedly about identical twin brothers, but in actuality they're clones of the same cursed person and the only difference is that one of them does magic but the show doesn't mention it, and I guess they flip, fix, build, or sell houses, depending on their mood. (I say "mood" instead of "moods" because, like their heart and dreams, they both share one mood at all times.) It's the most compelling and unsettling TV I've ever seen. I've been working on an unauthorized novel about being the Property Brother who "got out" of the family, but I had to put it on hold because I need to remember to call my representatives about either the newest needlessly cruel healthcare bill or insidious attempts at gerrymandering or whatever the fuck haunted puppet Jefferson Fucking Beauregard Fucking Sessions the Fucking Third is up to when I can't see him -- which is often, because he's only allowed to come out when innocent people are asleep.
One time I showed Jeff Sessions a missing child's picture on the back of a milk carton, and he said, "That doesn't look like much of anything to me." His favorite TV show is "the weather," and his least-favorite cartoons are the ones where two different kinds of animals are friends. He eats applesauce for every meal, and every night before prayers, he doesn't have sex with a glass of warm milk -- he just puts his dick in it, leaves it there for a while, and hums a little song about bugs to himself.
One time I met Jeff Sessions at a party and said, "Why are you so racist and awful?" and he took one of his teeth out and put it in my palm and said "Shh," and then winked like "I'll never tell," but legit he is the most dangerous person in America right now. Anyway, that tooth sprouted legs and sprinted to Charlottesville and Sessions is gunning for Nazi MVP and I hate that most of my time is spent tracking Sessions when I used to just do jokes about movies.
This is going to feel like an abrupt transition, but I promise it's related. The new It is the biggest movie in the world right now, shattering records constantly, and I would love to talk about it. But do you want to know what my over-thought, Daniel O'Brien, Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder-esque observations are?
1. This movie resonated with so many people because the concept of an overtly, undeniably evil force emerging in a hugely visible way after being hitherto concealed right beneath an allegedly safe town's surface for so long is striking a chord with a lot of people who are just waking up to the fact that the systemic and institutionalized issues of real racism which we thought we conquered a hundred times are still here, still strong, and still evil. We thought Derry was safe, but no, the monster was waiting in the shadows for the right time to pop out. We had civil rights and elected a black president, so we thought everything was cool ... until actual Nazis who lived next door suddenly stopped being too ashamed to admit they were Nazis the whole time.
2. Pennywise is such an effective monster for a lot of modern Americans who can relate to the idea of an evil clown who only exists because (and indeed, gets stronger when) we give it attention.
I used to talk about how Luke Skywalker was probably a virgin. Are you fucking kidding me? I'm incapable of not finding parallels to our current political situation. Show me an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants from 2001 today, and I guarantee you I'll find a link between Steve Bannon and Plankton, and what's weirder is that I will completely believe it because I see politics everywhere now.
I want to spend too much time over-analyzing the latest Spider-Man movie, because as Cracked's Creative Director of Video with a Minor in Spider-Man and a Concentration in International Hot-Tubbing, people expect me to have an informed take on all things Spider-Man. Instead I've spent six months researching the fucking Mercer family, a clown car cabal of rich maniacs who can singlehandedly control the results of an election and make the Koch Brothers seem tame by comparison. Please get excited about my next book, I Used To Make Jokes Until I Realized The Corrupt And Insane Mercer Family Will Buy Our Next Four Presidential Elections, due sometime in 20-never, because I'll be too sad to write it.
I can't stay out of politics, because politics is everywhere. When the president yells about Saturday Night Live, the NFL, the NBA, the Emmy Awards, Facebook, and a dozen other things in the same 30-day period, my even mentioning those things means whatever I'm talking about is political in some way.
At Cracked, we come into work every day to brainstorm ideas for content, and consistently the most important thing that's happening in the world at any given time has been related to our president. I mean, there was one day a few months ago when a five-star idiot was like, "I bravely love my fucking big fat wife so much, you guys should give me a medal," and we all had some tremendous apolitical fun with that for about 24 hours, but otherwise it's been the Trump show, all day, every day.
(God, I miss that golden idiot who thought grabbing a big ass should make him mayor.)
I can't keep politics out of my work on Cracked because I can't keep it out of my own private life. When I visit my family, we'll catch up and talk about recent movies we've seen, and eventually the conversation will end up like, "Yeah, work's going great, I've been golfing more, I went to the Aquarium of the Pacific for the first time, the New York Football Giants are fucking garbage, it's a shame about Puerto Rico, and did you hear what outrageous thing the president said about [X]?" If you're catching up with your family, how do you NOT mention the most recent thing our president did?
Or I'll be on a first date with someone, exchanging totally normal basic, casual first date conversation stuff ("Do you think Big Boi should be considered an elite rapper?" or "When was the first time in your life you interacted with someone of a different race from you?"), and without fail, one person will bring up the latest antics of our president. These are the kinds of conversations I have on a date with a new person:
Person: So what do you do in your free time?
Daniel: I like to run, I hang out with my dog, I read a bunch. But I guess most of my time is spent staring at Axios, Twitter, and The Week to stay up to date on our increasingly warlike tensions with North Korea.
Person: We can't listen to "Rocket Man" anymore!
Daniel: I KNOW, HE TOOK IT FROM US!
Daniel: So, you like your job?
Person: I do. I like the people I work with, the hours are good, it's challenging, the benefits are decent.
Person: Of course, all of our benefits may change if this new GOP healthcare bill gets rammed through.
Daniel: Without a proper CBO score.
Daniel: Do we know where the votes stand now?
Person: Paul is definitely a 'No,' we're still waiting on Murkowski and Collins because they haven't officially declared yet.
Daniel: It's still too close.
Person: Pack of bastards.
Daniel: Pack of halfwit bastards.
Daniel O'Brien, Cracked's Creative Director of Video and Slam Dunk Czar.
I know I'm more informed today than I've ever been in my entire life, and that's probably good, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm so fucking bummed about the amount of senators I know the names of. Seven years ago, if someone asked me to name ten senators, I'd say, "Like, government senators or the old baseball team the Senators? Either way, I don't know, maybe two? At any rate, I'm not going to answer your question because the series finale of Lost is about to air and it's gonna be perfect, babyyyyy, gonna answer all of Deany's questions, babyyyyyy! 'California Gurls'! Angry Birds! It's still okay to like Louis C.K.! 'Magic' feat. Weezer! it is two thousand teeeeeeeeeeen!"
The president wants us to boycott the NFL, the Golden State Warriors, most news, Facebook, SNL, the Emmys, uh ... Puerto Rico, I guess. I can't keep politics out of Cracked because I can't keep it out of anything, and I don't know how anyone does. If I showed up in a town and the mayor was like, "Oh, we don't talk about politics here, we don't even pay attention to it," I'd think "Wow, you're going to miss some pretty intense shit. One time at work I went to the bathroom for a full 20 minutes, and when I got back to my desk, Reince Priebus had resigned and Scaramucci's wife had filed for divorce and Eric Trump's pubes turned see-thru and we probably loosely declared war on someone."
And again, I also wish I could go back to doing dumb jokes. And I'm not weaving in political stuff because I feel some journalistic obligation; I'm doing it because I don't think it's possible to talk about anything without the framework of politics. Or I guess I can talk about football through the framework of how we should stop watching it because of CTE? Would that be better? Like, it's a bummer that Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job while some barely sentient mannequin gets paid millions to throw for the Bears, but maybe it's ultimately a good thing, because it lowers the chance that Kap will get the hot new murder brain damage that's sweeping the sports nation? Is that ... better?
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked's Strongest Intern and the author of How to Fight Presidents and the children's book adaptation, Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team, both of which you can buy wherever you want. He also wasn't lying about that Property Brothers book. He will be releasing it for free one chapter at a time and you can get it if you subscribe to his newsletter right here.
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