Aug. 24, 2016
Late night comedy shows, from Saturday Night Live to Samantha Bee, play an important role in defining the political landscape. While these shows certainly don’t comprise the most serious side of our culture, political candidates and public figures have, over the past several decades, appeared on them in an effort to humanize them, reach the public and appeal to a wider audience. President Nixon delivered a line on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” Bill Clinton appeared on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” Recent political candidates have made numerous appearances on late night comedy shows – both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been on SNL.
These forms of entertainment are extremely popular. A Pew Research Center study in 2012 found that more people got their political news from “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show” and “The Tonight Show” than read newspapers for political news. Why do you think politicians seek out this press? Do you think it makes them look less Presidential? Or do you think these appearances make them seem more like an ordinary citizen?
Saturday Night Live is a TV sketch comedy show. Many of their segments focus on politics and political news, often mocking both political parties. The show’s success and wide viewership make them an ideal place for candidates to get exposure to a wide audience.
This SNL skit is a fake Hillary Clinton ad in which she slowly morphs into Bernie Sanders, believing that Bernie resonates better with younger voters.
Other late night comedy show hosts routinely turn to politics for comedic material.
After spending a number of years pretending to be a “self-important right-wing commentator” on the “Colbert Report”, Stephen Colbert transitioned into hosting the “Late Show” on CBS. In the following video, Stephen Colbert discusses Trump and the 2016 Republican Primary.