Late-Night Hosts Go Easy on Biden, Signaling Shift in Comedy

Late-night talk show hosts have been surprisingly lenient in roasting President Joe Biden, shifting from sharp satire to a more partisan and cautious approach. This shift is attributed to the hosts' new role as defenders of democracy, particularly after the Donald Trump era.

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Late-Night Hosts Go Easy on Biden, Signaling Shift in Comedy

Late-Night Hosts Go Easy on Biden, Signaling Shift in Comedy

Late-night talk show hosts, known for their sharp wit and satire, have been surprisingly lenient in roasting President Joe Biden compared to his predecessors. This shift in tone is attributed to the hosts' increasingly partisan and cautious approach, particularly after the Donald Trump era.

Why this matters: This shift in late-night comedy's approach toPresident Biden reflects a broader change in the role of these shows in the political landscape, potentially influencing public perception and political discourse. As a result, it may impact the way politicians are held accountable and the tone of political satire in the future.

In late March, a sold-out fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall, featuring President Biden, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and moderated by Stephen Colbert, raised $26 million for Biden's reelection effort. However, the event was met with little skewering on late-night television. This is emblematic of a new era in late-night comedy, which is more proudly partisan, one-sided, and cautious in its targets, particularly when it comes to Biden.

President Biden, with his reputation for gaffes, age, and speaking style, would seem like an ideal target for late-night comedians. Yet, he has largely escaped the kind of ridicule that his predecessors faced. In the past, late-night hosts have mercilessly mocked presidents, such as Chevy Chase's impersonation of President Gerald Ford's stumbles, Jay Leno's jokes about President Bill Clinton's extramarital affair, and Stephen Colbert's mocking of President George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner.

The Donald Trump era has prompted a shift in comedy, with late-night hosts viewing themselves as defenders of democracy rather than simply holding power accountable. This has led to a more cautious approach in targeting President Biden, with hosts often drawing comparisons to Trump to soften their jokes. As Matt Fotis, author of Satire, The State, Sketch Comedy, and the Presidency, notes, "I think late-night hosts see themselves much more as defenders of democracy than they did in the past..."

While some jokes about Biden's speaking style and age have been made, such as Stephen Colbert mocking Biden's voice modulation and Jimmy Kimmel joking about the length of his physical examination, the overall tone remains gentle compared to the treatment of previous presidents. As Calder McHugh, author of the article, puts it, "It's more proudly partisan. More one-sided. More cautious in its targets. And it's generally soft on Biden."

The shift in late-night comedy's approach to President Biden reflects a broader change in the role of these shows in the political landscape. As they increasingly position themselves as partisan defenders rather than equal-opportunity satirists, it remains to be seen how this will shapepublic perceptionand political discourse in the years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Late-night talk show hosts are being lenient on President Joe Biden compared to past presidents.
  • This shift is attributed to hosts' increasingly partisan and cautious approach post-Trump era.
  • Biden's reputation for gaffes, age, and speaking style would normally make him a target, but he's largely escaped ridicule.
  • Late-night hosts now see themselves as defenders of democracy rather than simply holding power accountable.
  • This shift may impact public perception and political discourse, making satire more one-sided and cautious.