“I don’t want this job” was the general feeling among the writers who gathered Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills for a panel titled “Has Politics Made Late-Night Great Again?” Panelists included Ashley Nicole Black, a writer for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” Christine Nangle, head writer for “The President Show,” Hallie Haglund, writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and Jason Reich, head writer for “The Jim Jefferies Show.”
“I just find it exhausting. It’s hard to find it fun,” said Reich of the pressure to keep up with the constant news cycle generated by the administration.
“It can get really boring to deal with this same person provoking the same level of outrage with everything he does,” agreed Haglund. “To try to find a new way to go after that can be really boring.” She pointed out that during the Obama administration, the show could go a week without using a clip of the President. Now, she said, she was surprised when she found one act recently that didn’t mention Trump’s name once. “It was extraordinary,” she said. “It’s exhausting as much as it is upsetting and boring.”
Nangle pointed out, though, that there has been a benefit. “The only good thing is it’s unearthing part of our country that people didn’t know existed,” she said. “There’s so much more hate and resentment than we possibly could have imagined … This man didn’t come out of nowhere.”
Black agreed that the challenge is looking for deeper themes. “For everything that feels like a joke, there’s something that’s happening behind it,” she said. She pointed to people cheering at Trump’s recent speech telling police not to worry about being tough on prisoners. “What is happening in these people’s lives that they’re cheering at the idea of roughing up prisoners?”
The writers said they do try to broaden their message to reach those who might not necessarily agree with their perspective, but agreed that it’s not easy in such a divided country.
“I wonder how much is preaching to the choir,” said Reich. “We’re not really going to convert anyone but we’re trying to point things out that people may have missed.”
“I truly do not know if there’s a way to reach the other side,” said Black. “Not in terms of content but in terms of straight eyeballs. People only watch certain channels and read certain outlets. We’re not going to put a ‘Full Frontal’ commercial on Fox. The real problem in our country is people in our country, their media diets are so separated.”
Nangle pointed to the character on their show, the “forgotten manatee.” “We use him to point out he’s being forgotten,” she explained. “We’re illustrating him as this guy doesn’t care about you.”