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The winners and losers of Trump comedy in 2018

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From one wild White House Correspondents’ Dinner to a hidden camera show that changed the game, 2018’s comedy landscape was brimming with political takedowns. At the center of it all: Donald J. Trump. 

Whether you delight in partisan mockery or find the whole situation terrifying and exhausting, you were almost certainly audience to one or more orange zingers this year. Wondering who mastered the craft and who failed to stick the landing? Don’t worry, we kept track so you didn’t have to. 

Here’s a look at this year’s highest highs and lowest lows in the world of Trump comedy. 

Best fact-check: John Oliver on Last Week Tonight

Even in a world without facts, John Oliver knows how to resurrect reality. The comedian’s Emmy-winning show continued to champion grounded satire throughout its fourth season, crescendoing with a particularly scathing analysis on authoritarianism. 

Breaking down which dictator criteria Trump does and does not meet, Oliver closed out his season in classic Last Week Tonight fashion—leaving viewers in hysterics, both good and bad.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Season 4 is streaming on HBO.

Worst Trump impression: Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live

Cue long audible sigh.

Hair? Check. Self-tanner? Check. Lip pucker? Check. Funny? At all? No cigar. 

With the power of SNL‘s award-winning makeup and costuming departments behind him, Baldwin’s Trump certainly looks the part of our 45th president, but misses the mark when it comes to comedic anything. Whether that’s on Baldwin and SNL‘s writers room or an unfortunate reality of Trump content hitting too close to home can be debated. Regardless, the outcome is the same: a resounding, sharp, “Next!” 

Saturday Night Live reruns are streaming on NBC.

Biggest power move: John Mulaney in Kid Gorgeous

John Mulaney: master of the comedic special subtweet. 

It takes a lot of skill to burn El Capitan Orange Face without even saying his name, but John Mulaney did just that in his Radio City special Kid Gorgeous. Describing our current White House resider as a “horse loose in a hospital,” Mulaney mocked Trump without once uttering “Trump.”

To catch this legendary power move in its full glory (the above clip only captures a bit of its magic), check out minute 44 of Mulaney’s special on Netflix. The six-minute bit is more than worth your time… I mean, there is a horse loose in the hospital.

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous is streaming on Netflix.

Worst room reading: Katt Williams in Great America

Well, that was a strategy. 

Katt Williams isn’t bad at political comedy per se, but he did pick an interesting venue for his special Great America. Creating a fake Oval Office to pontificate from, Williams positioned his partisan-packed hour of outrageous comedy in Florida—one of the most politically divided states in the country. 

Williams makes it very clear he selected that location on purpose, hoping to get the best sampling of view points for his audience. Unfortunately, the result is more Gallup poll than late-night laugh, feeling not only a little uncomfortable, but also very un-Williams. 

That’s not to say the whole special is a wash—the King of Underground Comedy rocks plenty of his shocking signature humor—but in terms of Trump jokes, Great America doesn’t quite land.

Katt Williams: Great America is streaming on Netflix

Best one-liner: Michelle Wolf

Only Michelle Wolf can straight-up nail murder humor. 

Six months after Wolf’s uproariously funny and much maligned set at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, Trump took to Twitter to once again poke the bear. Big mistake. 

Wolf quickly responded with an artistically crafted, scorching one-liner, mocking Trump’s continued support of the Saudi Arabian royal family in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, a gruesome killing widely believed to have been ordered by crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.  

Brava, madame. If that doesn’t teach him, nothing will. 

The Break with Michelle Wolf: Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.

Most optimistic take-down: Chris Rock in Tamborine

Chris Rock isn’t exactly known for being the world’s biggest optimist, but his take on Trump in his Netflix special was surprisingly upbeat. 

Pointing out that the track record of former President George W. Bush may have helped shepherd successor President Barack Obama into the White House, a political theory held by many analysts, Rock makes a hopeful prediction. 

“It might just work out. Trump might work out. Yeah, I said it,” Rock says. “Trump’s so bad he’s gonna give us Jesus!” 

Sure, things are bleak now, but I guess we could be headed for the second coming. And that’s maybe worth it? Maybe?

Chris Rock: Tamborine is streaming on Netflix.

Best cabinet caricature: Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live

During the 2018 SNL run, Kate McKinnon, Queen of Impressions, rocked a lot of great characters, including a killer Rudy Giuliani and an always spectacular Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But none of them were quite as outlandishly captivating as her Jeff Sessions. 

Unfortunately, the former Attorney General’s ousting in early November meant McKinnon had to turn in her ears. However, we did get one last sketch out of the little legal gnome. Enjoy!

Saturday Night Live reruns are streaming on NBC.com

Most overwhelmingly uncomfortable: Sacha Baron Cohen on Who Is America?

Answer: This 2018 Showtime series tricked a whole bunch of interview subjects into doing some super stupid shit and then made everyone watching wildly uncomfortable.

Question: Who Is America?

Correct! For good and for bad, Sacha Baron Cohen’s hidden camera satire show was a revolutionary take on political comedy. Of course, SBC never made it anywhere near Trump, but he did manage to hit a few presidential acquaintances ripe for the take-down. Well done, sir. Well. Done.

Who Is America? is streaming on Showtime

Worst take: anyone who says “Trump is great for comedy” 

With Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Ali Wong’s Hard Knock Wife, and plenty of other incredible comedy specials out this year, it’s clear that while Trump jokes can be fun, they are by no means essential. So, do us all a favor: the next time you’re thinking, “Thank Trump for helping out my tight five” just… don’t. Okay? We’ll find you some better inspiration. I promise.

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