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Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sarah Cooper, and the Future of Comedy

Democratic National Convention via AP

If you’re anything like me — and I regret to inform you that you are — you didn’t watch any of the Democratic National Convention, instead waiting to see which parts were posted online for everyone to mock and deride. The first night had that amazing Billy Porter/Stephen Stills collab, which was basically a Tim & Eric sketch with better singing. Nothing on Tuesday really stood out. (Bill Clinton, I think? Or was it Hillary?) But Wednesday brought us Billie Eilish and her You Can’t Do That on Television hair performing in some sort of mauve-lit nightmare tableau.

The sullen, green-haired teenager, who wasn’t even born yet when the planes hit the Twin Towers, listlessly suggested voting for the ancient racist who’s been in Washington since Watergate. So that was inadvertently funny. That’s all I ask at this point. None of you people are going to convince me to vote for either of your old white dudes, so I’m just in it for the yuks.

Then, on the final night, the DNC tried something different. They tried intentional humor. They brought in Julia Louis-Dreyfus, perhaps hoping she would lend some Veep energy to the proceedings.

Instead, she gave us stuff like this:

You see, the joke here is that Trump is a racist for mispronouncing “Kamala.” (Even though Biden isn’t a racist for mispronouncing “Kamala.”) Therefore, mispronouncing “Pence” is funny because Pence is bad and you have been instructed to hate him.

Get it? You get it. GOT IT???

You will clap now. You are being monitored. You don’t have to laugh if you can’t make it sound authentic. You don’t have to pretend it’s funny. But you will applaud or be put on a list. Do you really want people to think you like Drumpf?

(I also love that JLD and Biden became friends because she was on the cover of the official Amtrak magazine. Joe and his choo-choo trains, right? She even makes a “joke” about how nobody reads the magazine, even though it’s “free.” Wealthy folks sharing a chuckle over the wasted tax dollars of the common rabble.)

Apparently the whole night was like that. JLD would drop a “strongly” or a “nasty woman” or a “Trump plays golf,” and then all but wink at the camera. They weren’t really jokes, with setups and punchlines and all that, but just references that reminded the audience who they loathe and why. Who needs to write material when you can just cut-and-paste HuffPo comment sections into the teleprompter?

I don’t want to say JLD bombed, but some say this was the worst stand-up act by a Seinfeld alum since someone brought an early-era cameraphone to a Michael Richards show.

Then there was Sarah Cooper. I can’t say much about her that Ben Sixsmith hasn’t already explained in his essay “Sarah Cooper Isn’t Funny.” She’s the world’s first impressionist who doesn’t actually do an impression. She doesn’t try to mimic Trump’s voice, or copy his mannerisms, or do any of the other things I thought an impressionist was supposed to do. It’s just… this.

What even is that? Don’t get me wrong, there are some great Trump impressionists out there. Darrell Hammond and Anthony Atamanuik are terrific. Alec Baldwin is… um…

Anyway. I suppose you could view what Cooper does as an “impression” if you hate Trump so much that you can’t see straight. But as Sixsmith notes, Cooper’s whole act is redundant because no matter how hard she tries, she’s not nearly as ridiculous as the actual Trump. This is just putting a hat on a hat.

But Hollywood disagrees, and lip-syncing to audio of Trump rallies while making funny faces is working out very well for Cooper financially. She’s landed lucrative deals with both Netflix and CBS, so the whole world will soon see how funny she’s supposed to be.

On the other side of the aisle, all they have are guys like Shane Gillis, who got fired from SNL for telling jokes. Here he is telling some other jokes:

Or Ryan Long, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t have development deals with Netflix, CBS, or anybody else:

Or any of the other losers out there who claim to be comedians even though they don’t further the goals of the Democratic Party.

The future of comedy isn’t comedy. It’s reminding the audience that they’re part of the in-group, and that the out-group is bad. In 2020, comedy means saying the right things about the people you want in office, without offending any special-interest groups with the power to end your career. Why make ’em laugh when you can make ’em clap? Clapter, it’s called. Rather than an instinctive reaction to humor, it’s the audience member’s signal to the rest of his and/or her tribe that he and/or she still belongs. And we’ll only be seeing more of it, no matter who wins in November.

Here’s, let’s try it:

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Shut up, you filthy MAGAt! Grab ’em by the pussy! It is what it is! Covfefe!

You know what to do, comrades.