Late night comics have feasted on President Donald Trump, poking fun at his factually challenged proclamations, tortured syntax, and elaborate combover.
But “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah admits that there are risks involved with getting too addicted to Trump jokes.
“You’ve got to look at Donald Trump as comedy cocaine,” Noah said at Variety‘s Entertainment and Technology Summit in New York on Wednesday. “A bump now and again will get you to a nice place, but you don’t want to overdose.”
Noah said that Trump and his ability to swallow up the news cycle provides a seemingly inexhaustible amount of material for comics. Still, he and his writers frequently find themselves asking, “How much is enough?”
Because the presidency comes with so much power, anything Trump says or does reverberates across the globe.
“There’s almost no news in the world that in some way is not being touched or influenced by Donald Trump,” said Noah.
On his Comedy Central program, Noah and his writers aren’t just focusing on Trump’s more outrageous tweets or political feuds. They’re trying to tell a larger story about what his rise signals about larger geo-political shifts.
“What you do is you’ve got to cut it,” said Noah, explaining that he kept returning to drug analogies, because “I watch a lot of ‘Narcos.'”
Trump’s rise has helped Noah find his own stride. Ratings at “The Daily Show” have improved as have critical reviews. Noah believes last summer’s political conventions marked a turning point for a show that satirizes the television news landscape. Noah was born in South Africa and said that his experience growing up in the country gave him a unique perspective.
“The next four years will be the story of the American people and how they responded to the force known as Donald Trump,” said Noah.
He saw parallels with the history of the program. He noted that Jon Stewart, his predecessor as “Daily Show” anchor, first connected with audiences during the contentious 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
“History, like fashion, repeats itself,” said Noah, adding “As Donald Trump sinks deeper and deeper into the swamp he once thought he would drain, the show is going deeper and deeper into politics.”
Noah said he stays in touch with Stewart, but doesn’t ask him for advice on overseeing “The Daily Show.”
“I promised Jon that I would let him retire,” said Noah.
When Stewart stepped down, he told his successor that he wanted to concentrate on his family. Noah says he mostly asks Stewart for insight into balancing work and life.
“We talk jokes,” said Noah. “We talk about life. We connect as human beings.”
“The Daily Show” was created to send up the 24/7 cable news world of talking heads and prime time bloviation. In the wake of the Trump election, “fake news” has become a buzzword. The president often uses the term to deride media groups or articles that he finds objectionable.
“We still see ourselves as ‘fake news,'” said Noah. “We won’t relinquish that title even though it was stolen from us by the president.”
The term might have been appropriated, but Noah said the mission of the program remains the same — to lampoon the powerful and the pompous alike.
“Our version of fake means no holds barred news now,” said Noah.