News & Politics

David Spade and the Late Night Non-Political Humor Lane

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

David Spade is attempting a late-night comedy show on Comedy Central that will eschew politics. That’s right, absolutely no political humor. Most particularly, no jabs, upper-cuts, or low-blows aimed at President Trump, the most fertile comedic political figure in history from the standpoint of the exclusively leftist legacy humor establishment in the United States.

If Spade can pull it off, a segment of the late-night comedy viewing public may be eternally grateful. Or at least a few season’s worth of grateful.

Spade claims he’s “stupid” about politics, an assertion that’s hard to buy. He’s too smart to be stupid about the divisions roiling the country, and at the same time smart enough to steer clear and make the “no political humor” lane his own.

If the promise of Lights Out With David Spade is fulfilled, no political figure or issue, no matter how replete with comedic potential, will be touched upon. Robert Mueller’s final testimony occurred concurrent with the Lights Out premiere, and there was no mention of Andrew Weissman’s unprepared extra from Night of the Living Dead. When walking punchline Peter Strzok surfaced in the news cycle, suing for his FBI job back with back pay, Spade went after Leonardo DiCaprio (?) instead. On this show, even Eric Swalwell gets a pass.

The focus of Spade’s humor will be pop culture, celebrity culture, social media culture, and general cultural mayhem. Reviewing the show so far reveals that pretty much anything goes in such territories. The saying goes, “politics is show business for ugly people.” By that equation, aside from a few glaring examples, Spade’s guests and the subjects of his bits are going to be a lot better looking than the typical line-up on The Story with Martha MacCallum.

Laff-o-meter readings during the show’s panel segments have run the gamut from LOL to “is this mic on?” but Spade has a facile sense of when a topic or meme is not panning out, or has been exhausted. The only panel guest so far that this writer has recognized was Dana Carvey, but that shouldn’t concern the Lights Out braintrust. The show’s target demographic probably doesn’t include oldsters who might be looking forward to Spade’s zingers when Downton Abbey, The Movie premieres.

If you’re not familiar with David Spade’s career, this article is not for you. As Spade himself might snarkily say, “Go do your own research.” OK, here’s a background synopsis. Spade was the kid on the Saturday Night Live couch when Chris Farley’s inspired motivational speaker Matt Foley came calling from his “van down by the river.” The two comedians became close friends, and starred together in Tommy Boy. Only months after Farley’s tragic death by overdose, television sitcom Just Shoot Me debuted featuring Spade as the sarcastic secretary Dennis, a role similar to Spade’s popular Hollywood gatekeeper on SNL, who made the brush-off phrase “Buh-bye” famous.

By designating political humor a no-go zone, Lights Out distinguishes itself from virtually every other contemporary comedy show on television. If a person respects President Trump and is disgusted with the unrelenting “comedic” attacks against him, there aren’t a lot of options.

The Late Show host Stephen Colbert has achieved ratings domination with unsparing attacks on the president. Conan O’Brien seemingly can’t get through a monologue without at least one shot at Mr. Trump. Bill Maher has made comedic evisceration of Trump the overarching theme of his HBO show. This writer has never seen Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC show, foregoing even a surf-by after Kimmel sunk so low as to, in effect, blame Trump on healthcare availability grounds after Kimmel’s son was born with a congenital heart condition. The “comedian” later “apologized.”

Jimmy Fallon, over at The Tonight Show, is an interesting case in point. An ostensibly likable guy, Fallon began to work caustic anti-Trump material into his monologues when Colbert overtook him in the ratings. The jokes seem inauthentic because they don’t seem to come naturally. There’s nothing worse than a likable guy trying to come across as an [expletive deleted] like Colbert, who is definitely authentic in that regard.

In a politics-free environment, Spade will have to forego some very tempting targets. He will not be able to joke if a damaged individual like Kathy Griffin shows up with the president’s head on a stake. The hijinks of both Antifa and Patriot Prayer will be off-limits. Humor aimed at political celebrities like Rush Limbaugh will verge dangerously close to a slippery slope.

With the premiere of Lights Out, David Spade lays bold claim to the non-political humor track in a country where political polarization dominates the national conversation. The premise is refreshing, the question is: can he keep it up? Is there enough material? Enough interest? Who gives a damn about Leonardo DiCaprio?

Nonetheless, conservatives remotely interested in Spade’s takes, and looking for a late-night laugh provided by someone other than people like Jim Acosta, may tune in.

In one spot, which riffed on a viral video in which a woman had played Metallica music to ward off a predatory cougar, Spade quipped that “he usually plays Metallica to attract cougars.”