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How do you solve a problem like The Donald? Comedians share how they tackle Trump

Nazeem Hussain, Emily Heller and Stephen K Amos answer one pressing inquiry: how do you shape gags about the US president?

Forget Uber journeys, Tinder shenanigans and airline meat; standup comedys topic du jour is Donald Trump. But has the orange ones ascent to the US presidency been a boon for comics, or does he represent a threat too grave to be flippant about? How has the role of slapstick shifted in an period in which the age-old rules of political commitment have been radically rewritten?

With the Melbourne International Comedy festival taking over the city throughout April, we caught up with some of its performers to ponder these questions and ask them: how are you dealing with Trump?

Emily Heller

Its hard to shape[ Trump] funny because it is a very real fright and its still so new. Im still figuring it out. But I feel like it colourings every joke, whether[ the joke] is explicitly about Trump or not. I dont know if slapstick has the ability to change peoples minds but Im hearing from audiences that they need it, that it attains them feel less alone.

I used to think slapstick was a medium to address any kind of person but now, sometimes, you get a pretty clear sense that audience members support Trump and, when I get that appreciation, I dont really care about entertaining them any more.

The day after such elections, I was scheduled to perform on a show to celebrate Hillary Clintons win. It was an all-female lineup and it terminated up being one of best available reveals Ive ever done. It was full of people who were incredibly perplexed and disappointed and it terminated up being tremendously cathartic. It reminded me how invaluable live performance is.

Emily Heller is one of the USs most acclaimed young comics and writers. She has appeared on Conan, Chelsea Lately and Late Night with Seth Meyers

Emily
Emily Heller: Sometimes you get a pretty clear sense that audience members support Trump. Photograph: Mindy Tucker

Damien Power

I tend to avoid the really topical material because I find thats so well covered by people like John Oliver. I guess Im taking wide-reaching strokes; a lot of my substance stems from the fact that the left/ right paradigm has become very weird and confusing.

I definitely think theres a place for more escapist or surreal slapstick. I embrace all of it. Ive never envisaged I was changing “the worlds”; my No 1 aim has always been to be funny. Weirdly, these days, with the path mainstream media and social media are with their different biases, people are often looking to comedians to provide a voice of reason. People want a gasp of fresh air amid all the insanity.

Damien Power is a Barry-nominated comedian whose task has described comparings with George Carlin. He was also a member of the satirical group True Australian Patriots

Cal Wilson

The stuff that Im doing, its not a political diatribe. I just sprinkle it through the show. I dont have a degree in political science, its fairly simple material. The level I shape is that I never felt qualified to talk about politics before but now with Trump I feel overqualified to talk about it. I necessitate, half an avocado would be overqualified to talk about politics compared to him. He just says whatever he craves. I call it asshole jazz.

When you have a man that mentions such frightful things about women and immigrants so openly, I feel like we have to be bolder about being allies. He has given people a licence to bring out their secret racism or their secret sexism. People conceive, Well, if the president is saying it, it must be OK.

Cal Wilson has been a popular drawcard at the Melbourne International Comedy festival since she won its best newcomer accolade in 2001. Her new show is Things Ive Never Said

Nazeem Hussain

My reveals tend to be political but from a very personal view. I dont just respond to the news of the working day, it has to resonate with me personally. What is more important and interested in me is that hes the president because a large segment of the population voting in favour him. Im interested in how those notions gained money. Trump is a symptom of the modern west; he didnt “re coming” with these notions or be convinced to think like that, hes nothing new. Its more the underlying humor around Trump thats interesting.

Over the last six months, Ive felt the need to be on stage more. For me, its therapeutic. Its like the crazier “the worlds” gets, the more we need to be able to laugh at the obvious absurdity and to share in that experience.

Not that slapstick is a social movement but I conceive every social movement is about joining along with like-minded people. I dont think you go to a rallying considering it will change “the worlds” you go to come together with people who feel the same and to suffer it together.

Nazeem Hussain cowrote and starred in Legally Brown. His latest show, Public Frenemy, was written in a 10 -day blitz after his stint on Im A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here !

The
Nazeem Hussain: Trump is a symptom of the modern west.

DeAnne Smith

My sense is that people are sick of hearing about Trump but it also seems like, in 2017, its not enough to just tell some cute gags. Im approaching it through broader gags about misogyny and sexism. I dont expend too much period on Trump specifically but he seems like an abhorrent human being. I actually left America after Bush stole such elections and I envisaged things couldnt perhaps get any worse. That just seems quaint now.

But I think of it as a fun challenge. This sounds cheesy but I think its become even more important to stay true-blue to yourself as a musician now. I played a show the nighttime after such elections and it felt like everyone in the room has indeed been through something traumatic. Everyone was devastated but it terminated up being one of the best and most cathartic reveals Ive ever done. People really wanted an excuse to come together.

DeAnne Smith is a Canadian-American comedian who was nominated for a Barry award in 2011. Her current show is Post-Joke Era

Stephen K Amos

My main thing is to be very careful about it because I dont want to be doing the same sort of joke areas as my fellow comics. As with Brexit, it should certainly subdivided culture, so you have to be very sensitive in your approaching. Ive been on bills where comics are just writing off all Trump supporters and I dont want to go down that footpath of just labelling all persons who voting in favour Trump or for Brexit as a bigot or a sexist.

Its a really strange period where the stronger boy in the free world-wide is actively involved on social media hes having a pop at Alec Baldwin, having a pop at Meryl Streep. Its like, I wouldnt want to go into Woolworths and hear the president milling around there. I would think, Hey, havent you got more pressing things to do?

Stephen K Amos is an English comedian and Melbourne International Comedy festival regular. His show World Famous focuses on casual racism and the changing thought of free speech

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