Donald Trump at the last debate and the Al Smith dinner

On his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver reviewed Donald Trump’s performance at the last debate and at the charity event the following night at the Al Smith dinner, a white-tie exclusive affair hosted by the Catholic church at which the two presidential candidates are expected to indulge in largely self-deprecatory humor. Of course, Trump did not do that, instead seeing the occasion as one in which he could score off Hillary Clinton and say the things that he wished he could have said at the debate but didn’t. His performance was not well received, to put it mildly.

But Trump’s performance is easy to understand. The jokes at such events are of course not written by the speakers but by professional joke writers. But writing them requires the speech-givers to have a sense of humor about their own faults, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and other foibles. But Trump does not seem to have that kind of self-awareness. He seems to view himself as fault-free. So it should not be surprising that the only joke that was close to home was the one aimed at his wife Melania.

Pointing to what he described as the media bias against him, he said: “Michelle Obama gives a speech. And everyone loves it, it’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great.

“My wife Melania gives the exact same speech. And people get on her case. And I don’t get it. I don’t know why.”

But what were the poor joke writers to do? If they wrote jokes that made fun of Trump’s negative qualities and ran them by him, he would have likely flown into a rage at the thought that mere writers were criticizing him and had them fired.


  1. oualawouzou says

    Going by the bits shown in the clip, all I could think of was that it would have been so easy to salvage had he had the smallest degree of self-awareness.

    (Third straight joke welcomed with boos. Trump stops, picks up his papers and looks dumbfounded.)
    “Wait, who writes this crap? Was it you? You? It wasn’t? You’re fired anyway!
    (Throws papers.)
    See, that’s why I don’t go by scripts. They’re AWFUL! I’d never level such nasty accusations towards my honorable and dignified opponent in this presidential election, this most revered exercise of democracy. Because I, too, am honorable. I’m the most honorable candidate there is. Was. Will be. I’m YUGE in honor, I’ll tell you that. And this script? Sad!
    I’ll tell you what, you know, this roast is RIGGED!”

  2. says

    Trump probably didn’t have a writers’ room full of comedy-writers designing tasty sound-bites for him. He’s more authentic, but he’s an authentic shitbag.

  3. keithb says

    I don’t think they *all* have to be self-deprecatory, some gentle ribbing is OK. For example, I thought that Trump’s remark that Donna Brazille had given Hilary her jokes ahead of time was pretty funny.

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