Funny people will be working out their material on stages and screens in the weeks and months to come. But.
Funny people will be working out their material on stages and screens in the weeks and months to come. But I asked several Toronto-based comics how they were feeling right now.
Allana Reoch: Heres a true timeline of my thoughts: Wow, lots of red on this map. Interesting. Okay. Cool. Its cool. Weve got time to turn this around. Well be fine. Well be fi—- Florida?! Oh God. Okay, but surely there is sense and reason and good in this world. This is going to be… Ohio? How? How. How?! But why? What? No. Its okay. There is still hope. People are good. A five per cent chance of being elected is something isnt it? Weve still got to wait for the results from Pennsylvania. NO. PENNSYLVANIA, WHY? Fuck. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Then I turned into a disheartened ghost and have yet to be returned to my corporeal form.
Gavin Crawford: I was sick with a bad cold so I went to bed at 7:30 pm, assuming it would be close but predictable. I woke up to groaning downstairs around 2 am and yelled, What happened? Kyle just yelled back, “You dont wanna know!”
Etan Muskat: I taught a class, and started off by asking if we wanted to follow it or not think about it until after. They unanimously voted not to think about it. But one student had an Apple Watch, and at some point revealed that Trump had taken Florida. Not much hope after that. On my way home the streets were empty, and everyone I did see was alone and staring at their phone. Later I drank a lot.
Nigel Downer: It was like a slow escalation in disbelief. I went to bed fearing that I’d wake up to a real life episode of The Walking Dead: a post apocalyptic world where a series of bad decisions lead to an outbreak that eventually killed a heavy majority of the population.
Iqra: Still in denial. Please check back in four years.
Crawford: Comedy is needed the most when things are bad. Satire allows people to hold a funhouse mirror up to an ugly reality and distort it to give people hope or to call attention to the actions of people in power whether its Orange Mussolini, or the Shirtless Prince of Canada. When the people in power are more dangerous, the need to call them out becomes even greater.
Muskat: Comedy can be a huge source of relief, either by helping us process pain or by simply being a distraction. I haven’t felt very funny lately, but I have laughed at some very silly jokes.
Reoch: To give a voice to collective outrage, to create a space where our laughter cushions the discomfort of self-reflection, to remind us that we are all frightened by the uncertainty of our own mortality, and to distract with fart jokes.
DeAnne Smith: I think it’s to help us all feel sane in what’s starting to look like an increasingly insane world. To give love and light a voice against hate and darkness. Is that too tall an order?
Iqra: Comics are like therapists. We provide relief from the tension by helping people process their feelings. Ultimately, the goal here is feeling better but not forgetting things.
Glen Foster: I’ve always had a political/social commentary bent to my act. My perspective is a straight, middle-aged white males, because that’s what I am. So I rail about politics, but lately, I’ve been doing less of that sort of material. I think when people go to comedy shows, unless they know they are going to see Jon Stewart or Bill Maher and expect political commentary, they are going for entertainment, for an escape, to forget about the problems of the world. So sometimes, even if I am joking about the horrible shit going on in the world, I am still reminding them of it. Plus, there is potential for backlash if you dare criticize, even comedically, certain individuals, movements and beliefs. So many people have called me a racist, sexist bigot that eventually I may have to run for office.
Crawford: Well, the comedy becomes more imperative, and possibly more dangerous. Being gay I am nervous for the future of LBGT+ people in the U.S., as I am for others whose voices the Trump camp are tired of having to hear, but that only makes me want to be Louder, faster, funnier!
Muskat: Watching Trump campaign was like watching an open hand of poker: you could see when he was bluffing, or lying, or didn’t know the rules, but he won anyway. He offered a lot of empty promises and fear, so now it’s a question of what he’s actually going to do as president. Will he follow through on his horrific pledges to ban Muslims from entering the country, to punish women who have abortions, to build a wall along the border to Mexico? Or will he drop those ideas and risk alienating his constituents? Either have to acknowledge some scary truths about modern politics. And that makes it harder to laugh it all off.
Foster: It just makes him a bigger, easier target, because now, instead of just making fun of his outlandish promises (and threats), we’ll also get to mock him if he doesn’t go through with them. Or if he does. Its a win win for comedy, even if its a lose/lose for America and the rest of the world.
Smith: I’m writing all my jokes in menstrual blood. Well, until menopause or the apocalypse, whichever comes first.
Reoch: Im still waiting to confirm whether or not this is an elaborate piece of performance art. Fingers crossed.
Iqra: Things are bleak, but my comedy idol, Dave Chappelle, came out of TV retirement to host SNL this week. So thats a pretty big changer.
Muskat: I think we wasted a lot of time making fun of Trump the absurd figure: his hair, his tan, his tiny hands, and we ignored the horror of his ascent. It took a long time for us to take him seriously because he’s so unlikely as a political candidate. If we’d known he was going to win we would have spent more time looking at the atmosphere of outrage and fear that Trump was feeding off of, and less talking about how his eyes look like his mouth.
Iqra: Comedy played a role but so did everybody else, like news anchors and other politicians. The real lesson here is that a social critique on important issues is crucial. We all seemed to have been caught up on retweets and ratings that we lost sight of how vital it is to contribute critically to the dialogue.
Reoch: It depends on the type of comedy. To impersonate and mock the buffoonery of an orange man with bad hair who readjusts the microphone and emphasises made-up facts with his creepy baby hands is convenient and easy comedy. True satire bites hard and shines the mirror back at the society that put this person into power in the first place, and in this way nobody is immune to being held accountable for outcomes like this one.
Crawford: I that depends on the comedian, I wouldnt say Samantha Bee has been normalizing Trumps actions, quite the opposite. Im not a fan of the type of comedian who would giggle with him and tousle his… is it hair?
Smith: I would agree. Cheap laughs without any edge or point of view can do just that.
Downer: “Off limits”? No. But I do think there should be some time separating the comedy from the actual event. Some people are always going to be uncomfortable with [certain] topics. It’s really in the approach and how smart a joke is.
Reoch: No person who has misused a position of power to take advantage of or attempt to erase the voices of the more vulnerable members of society is ever off limits. Ever. Sorry, not sorry.
Crawford: Some things are in poor taste, but no. The very idea of off limits and acceptable comedy helped make this happen in the first place. And a lot of that came from the left.
Muskat: I don’t think anything is off limits, but some things are harder to make funny. Comedy has huge potential for catharsis, but there are situations that are so upsetting that it can be difficult to find the release. To a certain extent that’s how I feel about Trump right now. (That said, I did pull both a Ford and a Ghomeshi reference from different Second City sketches because there wasn’t time to expand on them in context them without changing the main content of the scene. I think if you’re going to raise a loaded issue you’d better have a vital point of view to express.)
Foster: To me, nothing should ever be off limits to comedy. I don’t care if it is tasteless, horrible, whatever. If it makes you laugh, then it’s funny, period. People have to learn to separate the humour from the horror. Here’s my YouTube clip on that subject.
Iqra: Tone and intent are key. If you were to read any Chris Rock, Margaret Cho or Louis CK joke on paper, youd think they were insane. But, by pushing the boundary of whats considered appropriate they have challenged the way people think for the better.
Crawford: I want my comedy to reflect my view. I hope it entertains people but thats up to them, not me.
Iqra: Im open to sharing my comedy with everyone. But I recognize Im a real triple threat: Black, Muslim and a woman. So well see….
Muskat: Comedy is such a cultural experience, because we need a shared understanding of things to laugh at them. And a culture gap can be very difficult to cross. I’ve certainly experienced culture shock on stage, where ideas were misunderstood or rejected by the audience. My instinct is to attack the ignorance and resentment and fear that allowed Trump to be elected, but I think divisiveness is a big part of how we got here. Even since the election I’ve read some compelling analyses about the correlation between white working class mortality rates and Trump support, which I didn’t hear about at all during the election. So I’m going to try to be more understanding of the sources of pain that lead to this, without excusing the behaviour that comes from in. Still, I don’t see my point of view changing much. And fuck Larry The Cable Guy.
Reoch: I cant think of a way to put more pressure on yourself than to want your comedy and art to be liked by everyone. The best you can do is pick your targets with care, write smart jokes that do not punch down, and use your voice to say something.
Smith: I’ve cried everyday the tears smudge the writing.
Crawford: People are very resilient. We ended the radio show this week by saying, You might be depressed, but remember its only politics, its not the end of the world. That doesnt happen until January. The crowd laughed, it was kind of cathartic for everyone.
Muskat: Oof, gimme a week.
Downer: Nope but I am working on my Obama impression. Those two couldn’t be any further from each other. And just because Obama only has a couple months left in office, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in sketches or jokes that have the two of them as the punchline.
Reoch: I just wrote a sketch about an at-the-end-of-her-rope employee working for a Hallmark-like card company who is pitching scathing greeting card messages in a meeting of men who are trying to play it safe and keep things lighthearted. Its not so much a Trump joke, but rather a feeble attempt to channel some unbridled rage.
Iqra: Heres one that has been getting many likes and what not on Facebook and Twitter: America is like a college girl w/ daddy issues. She left her uptight British parents, experimented with a black dude, flirted with the idea of being with a woman and was like, “Just kidding! I like rich scumbags!”
Crawford: Louder, Faster, Funnier! Also maybe buy a generator.
Smith: This one’s for the white people: unlearn your racism (spoiler alert: you are racist), support marginalized communities, and put your money and action where your Facebook status is.
Muskat: For a lot of people this wasn’t an election about government or the economy or political parties, it was about safety. POC, women, LGBTQ Americans, Muslim Americans, anyone who doesn’t fit into the Trump worldview feels in danger now. Be engaged, be active, be outspoken. Also: weed is legal in California now and pretty easy to get in Canada, so that helps.
Foster: First of all, if enough dirt surfaces on Trump, he won’t last four months without some kind of indictment. Second, MIKE PENCE is the dangerous one. He is a “true believer” and a lot of his beliefs are downright backwards and scary. Much as people don’t like Trump, they’d better hope nothing happens to him. Or if it does, let’s hope whatever it is takes out everyone else in the US government too. Except Keifer Sutherland, of course.
Reoch: Pepto Bismol.
Downer: Those trips you’ve been planning to anywhere but the states? Good time to get them in.
Iqra: Not sure why, but I’m not worried. It’s like I’m Black, Muslim and a woman on the outside but feel super white privilegey on the inside. Yup…Im clearly in denial.
Glen Foster‘s new open mic, Bullhorn Comedy, runs every Friday at The Black Bull Pub in Burlington.
Follow Iqra at @sheiscleverbro
Etan Muskat directs an improv show about artificial intelligence at Bad Dog Theatre in
Allana Reoch performs in Eat Buy Repeat: The Second Citys Guide To The Holidays from November 21 her sketch troupe Panacea performs the second Thursday of each month at Bad Dog Theatre and she’s part of Sunday Night Live, every Sunday at 9:30 pm at Comedy Bar
DeAnne Smith and Jess Salomon host a monthly show at Bad Dog Theatre. Smith recently released the album Tell It To My Balls.