Late-Night Comedy Shows Soft on Biden, Avoid Harsh Criticism

Late-night talk shows have been gentle in their treatment of President Joe Biden, providing less criticism compared to his predecessors. A recent Democratic fundraiser moderated by Stephen Colbert raised $26 million for Biden's reelection effort, exemplifying a new era in late-night comedy.

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Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Late-Night Comedy Shows Soft on Biden, Avoid Harsh Criticism

Late-Night Comedy Shows Soft on Biden, Avoid Harsh Criticism

Late-night talk shows have been noticeably gentle in their treatment ofPresident Joe Biden, providing less criticism compared to his predecessors. A recent Democratic fundraiser moderated by Stephen Colbert, which raised $26 million for Biden's reelection effort, exemplifies a new era in late-night comedy that is more overtly partisan, one-sided, and cautious in its targets.

This shift in late-night comedy's tone and approach has significant implications for the role of comedy in holding those in power accountable, regardless of party affiliation. It also raises questions about the influence of partisan leanings on the media's ability to provide critical coverage of political leaders.

Despite Biden's reputation for gaffes, verbal stumbles, and physical mishaps, late-night hosts and sketch comics have largely pulled their punches. Calder McHugh, author of a recent article on the topic, notes that the comedy is "more proudly partisan. More one-sided. More cautious in its targets. And it's generally soft on Biden." The event at Radio City Music Hall, featuring Biden and former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, provided ample opportunity for comedic skewering, but it was conspicuously absent.

Why this matters: The soft treatment of Biden by late-night comedians is likely motivated by several factors. As partisans, many hosts want to support the Democratic president. They have also learned that criticizing former President Donald Trump boosts their ratings, so going easy on Biden helps maintain their audience share. Additionally, anyone who criticizes Biden risks facing backlash from liberal viewers, making it unappealing for hosts to play it down the middle.

The risks of criticizing Biden were evident when Jon Stewart faced criticism a few months ago for his tougher take on the president. Mary Trump, the former president's niece, wrote that Stewart's "both sides are the same" rhetoric was "not funny" and "a potential disaster for democracy." This backlash highlights the challenges comedians face in targeting Biden without alienating their audience.

As a result, late-night monologues have essentially become a de facto campaign donation to Biden's reelection effort. With little upside to criticizing the president, hosts have largelygiven him a pass, resulting in a notable absence of harsh jokes at his expense. While this approach may align with the political leanings of their audiences, it raises questions about the role and responsibility of comedy in holding those in power accountable, regardless of party affiliation.

Key Takeaways

  • Late-night talk shows have been gentle on President Joe Biden, providing less criticism.
  • This shift in tone has implications for comedy's role in holding those in power accountable.
  • Biden's gaffes and mishaps have been largely ignored by late-night hosts and sketch comics.
  • Partisan leanings and fear of backlash may be motivating factors for the soft treatment.
  • This approach raises questions about the responsibility of comedy to hold leaders accountable.