Ask The Jesters: Why Late Night TV is Balancing Education, Politics & Laughter Better Than Ever

How Colbert, Bee, Meyers & Noah continue to teach and call to arms while wrapping it all in humour.

On Tuesday, Jimmy Kimmel made an impassioned speech during his monologue regarding the latest attempt by Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. In it, Kimmel called out Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the writers of the bill, for lying to Kimmel’s face about it’s contents.

Kimmel’s son, Billy, was born with a heart condition back in April. Jimmy spoke of the wonderful hospital staff that helped Billy then. Now, some five months later, Jimmy was taking a stand against a health care bill that would only cover children like his son if they were lucky enough to have a wealthy father.

Kimmel’s monologues both blew up. The first one in May for it’s heartfelt sincerity, and this recent one for it’s scathing review of the new healthcare plan put into personal context by Kimmel. “I am politicizing my son’s health problems because I have to,” said Kimmel. Many people online asked why a comedian would even be a voice in the healthcare debate.

Turns out, Jimmy has a pretty good handle on the bill. The Washington Post looked into the claims that Kimmel made in his monologue. You can read them here.┬áHe and his writing staff did their homework before coming out that night with his monologue. It’s a pattern more and more late night hosts are following: educated, political commentary that is happening now. It’s not new, but it might be more important than ever.

Ever since the election of Donald Trump, the realm of late night television has become increasingly politicized. Late night is typically thought of as a place for celebrities to just talk about being celebrities and whatever big project they have coming up next. Now though, it has become a place for political discussion.

Newer shows have taken the “funny news” style that was mainstreamed by The Daily Show and brought it to new heights. Last Week Tonight isn’t normally populated with guests, but instead focuses on educating the audience on a new topic. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee has become a smash hit with an increasing following as Samantha brings a fresh perspective and scathing reviews of politics to the masses. The biggest winner with this shift to more political reviews has been Stephen Colbert.

Courtesy of Business Insider

Colbert, now free of his Colbert Report character who was a conservative pundit, has attacked the President and the current administration in almost every monologue. Viewers have turned to his CBS show in droves, leading to him beating Jimmy Fallon in the late night race for the 2016-2017 season. While it may not be the only reason, it has to be a factor.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is the archetype for late night. He laughs excessively at his guests jokes, goofs around in fun skits and games, and in general is out for a good time. With more people looking for political commentary and the strong takes from comedians, Fallon has fallen behind.

A big question is: what caused this shift?

While there has been a shift in political consciousness of the masses, especially young people, that isn’t the only option. Another is that the spread of information at this point is faster than ever before. Once a monologue is finalized, it becomes a clip and can go viral in an instant.

Monologues have been a staple of late night television hosts dating back to Johnny Carson. A mini-stand up set on the news of the day which is ever changing and a testament to the writing strength of each show’s team. Mostly these are full of cheeky one liners in the days of Dave Letterman & Jay Leno. While some are political, they didn’t discuss policy or position as much as comments on a politician’s superficial features.

Now, the monologues will be harsh indictments on policies and the political establishment not meant to embarrass the politicians exclusively but also to educate the viewer. These make for excellent YouTube clips. Clocking in at usually 5-8 minutes long, it makes for a relatively quick watch that keeps you up to date and current.

Every day Tuesday-Saturday, the previous night’s monologues will be in the top trending videos on YouTube. They’ll be the most retweeted tweets. They’ll be shared by friends and family on Facebook. It becomes the most acceptable way to frame your opinions on the government or world events: “Watch this video, because Seth Meyers/Stephen Colbert/Samantha Bee sum up what I also feel about this accurately and in an entertaining way.”

Comedians & comedy writers are analytical and sharp by nature. Comedians will be the first people to call bullshit on an argument they don’t like because poking holes in things is what can lead to the best comedy. They look at things normal people take for granted or walk by every day and ask “how can I make this funny.” When given large concepts like race, religion, war, or disaster, their minds go into overdrive. “How can I make this funny and make sure that people understand how important it is.”

We like our news to be packaged in a way that isn’t doom and gloom. It’s why local news shows tend to end on a fluff piece about a cat fashion show or someone baking the world’s largest calzone. These comedians (and they’re all comedians at heart) don’t just come out and say the world is ending. Instead, they wrap it in humour and make it easier to digest, like putting a pill inside some pudding. It’s easier to get down when it’s surrounded by something nice.

Finally, a large portion of the young people believe that some parts of politics are so ridiculous that you have no choice but to laugh at them. Millennials are often categorized as not being able to take a joke. This isn’t true. We’re a whole generation that survives the awful things in the world by bonding over cat photos and other memes. It’s that we need to take things that are so outlandish, ridiculous, or sad, and find a way to stomach the information while remaining interested. Hearing the bad news outright would make us numb to the bad things happening. Keeping the humour around it allows us to take in politics, world events, and keep us informed.

As I mentioned earlier, comedians giving us the news and commenting on politics isn’t new. It’s been happening for as long as funny people have been around.

When 9/11 happened, Jon Stewart still broadcast The Daily Show from New York. On the show, he appeared distraught and shaken. His presence captivated the audience because it was such a change from his regular demeanor. Stewart spoke to the nation, and in a time of great sadness still made the audience laugh. He spoke with sincerity, honesty, and as a representative of New York and it’s people. Stewart wasn’t above them; he was one of them.

The reason we listen when comedians are like this is because of the shift. This man is one of the funniest people on the planet, and he’s struggling to keep it together. It relays the gravity and the importance, yet somehow he still makes us feel like it’s going to be okay. Stewart always had a gift for this type of message.

Today’s hosts still do it as well. They wrap tragedy, heartbreak, and confusion in jokes to make the pain a little less. They educate and explain while still making you laugh. It’s an important role that has been taken by some in full stride. In order to understand the kingdom best, ask the jesters.

I have a pretty simple lunchtime routine. When I can, I come home, grab whatever grub I have, and put on The Daily Show. I watch Trevor Noah explain what’s going on in America & around the world in a 22 minute show. Throughout the day, I may check out what Seth Meyers’ monologue was, or maybe what new segment Samantha Bee made. And yes, I will watch James Corden do some carpool karaoke or watch Jimmy Fallon play slap bet with another celebrity. It’s about balance.

Now more than ever, the jesters who hold court on late night have the tools, a captive audience, and the ability to deliver news and education to the masses. So far, they’re doing a great job. At this point it’s up to news networks to catch up and find a way to get the same information out to people. The class clowns are stepping up as some of the most important voices to listen to.


Trying Your Best is Enough

How moving to a new city has made me practice doing my best instead of being the best.

I’m starting to notice a trend in the things I post about what I’m learning:

1. It’s all stuff I learned for the first time a long while ago, and keeps gaining new meaning as time goes on.

2. It’s mainly stuff my mom taught me.

Lesson here: listen to your parents, or if your parents suck listen to those trying to help you.

Anyways, story time. Growing up I never had big expectations placed on me by my mom. Not that she didn’t think I’d amount to anything, but it was mainly me telling myself I needed to achieve more. I set the ridiculous expectations, not her. Whenever I wasn’t sure about how I did, academically or otherwise, she’d ask the same thing: did I try my best?

Honestly, sometimes it was a no. I’d slacked off on chores, or an assignment, or whatever it may be. If I had tried my best though, I felt a lot better. Most of the time, I felt like it wasn’t enough, no matter how well things were actually going.

Fast forward to now, and more than ever I need to contextualize things in terms of doing my best. Picking up and moving to a new city is not a rom-com movie or goofy sitcom, as much as I’d like to say it is. It’s tough. I have some of my best friends in this city and I still wake up sometimes asking to go home. I don’t even know what I mean by home, which is the part that is a little fucking bananas.

It’s tough to adjust and learn a new city. I’ve done it multiple times in my life and it doesn’t appear to be like riding a bike. Instead it’s a riding a bike where the wheels are the wrong size, the chain falls off, and the seat is uncomfortable, but you really don’t have another way to get around.

I try to try my best. Learning a new school to work at, a new city with new routines, I just keep trying. I keep reminding myself that it’s mainly me who has this ridiculous expectation set up for how it’s supposed to go. It might get there and it might not, but right now doing the best I can is all that can really be expected.

My mom still asks me to try. Try and get adjusted to the city, meet people, and work hard at work and at myself.

What’s the takeaway here? Great question. Listen to the people you look up to, probably. Try your best, and recognize that as a person that is all you can give. Even though things can seem really damn hard, you’re going to be okay.

Measuring Days

How do I judge days aside from what I got done off my to do list?

I really struggle in how I justify if I had a “good day” or not. That’s because for a very long time I just counted how good my day was by what I did or didn’t do.

I’m a list guy. Things to do, things to buy, what needs to get done goes on the list. Lists are kept of lists currently in progress. It makes me lapse into judging my days by what I did. What got done off the big list of lists?

Which is weird, right? There are lots of things I do in a day. I eat, drink, sleep, contemplate what the world will be like if this game of nuclear chicken America is having with North Korea goes south, brush my teeth. It’s a busy day.

No matter how much I “do” in the day, or manage to get off the list, it never feels like enough. The list usually has stuff on it still. That’s the part I focus on. I’m really starting to hate the list.

If I don’t use the list to measure the day, what can I do?

A small aside:

Part of me recognizes the weirdness of me posting so frequently about things I’m learning, especially if it comes off as me trying to tell the reader that I know anything. I’ll tell you two things right now:

1. I know nothing (Jon Snow, hardy har)

2. Part of me is hesitant to write these things for people to read when I regularly go to therapy and need help constantly. Who am I to tell anything to you?

When I told a friend this earlier this year, I talked about how I felt it was strange that at times when I feel like I’m falling apart, I keep talking about good things on my site. Who am I to create things, because sometimes I feel like I’m nothing special. She thought for a second and hit me with this:

“So you’re pretty much saying no one should create ever, because no one is worthy.”

Damn. Check and mate, I guess.

So I’ve taken that to heart, and just try to let people in to things I’m trying, learning, or things that make me laugh. Even though I need help and take steps to really take care of my own mental health, I’ll try and keep writing. If it helps you, groovy. If it doesn’t, then I’m sorry you wasted your time. I know that it’s definitely helping me though.

Sorry, back to what we were talking about.

I attended a conference earlier this year and heard Dr. Keith Edwards speak. You should hear him speak too. Here, watch one of his talks about the culture of sexual violence and come back to me.

Watch it? He’s great, right?

He talked about how we need to celebrate more every day. People think celebrating is meant for only special occasions, like birthdays or graduations. Those of us who are able to celebrate the little things feel more grateful and happier. Celebrate things like getting two pink starbursts in those mini packs, hitting every green light, getting to have coffee from your favourite place. It makes it the world a bit nicer to live in when you celebrate the small things.

Thinking back to the lists, I’ve stopped trying to focus on what I did every day. Instead, I’m working to look at what I made that day. Did I make anyone laugh? How about make anyone smile? Did I make time for the important people? Did I make time to reflect?

Did I make any art? Writing, jokes, and music aren’t my day job (and I freaking love my day job) but it’s another important aspect of my day. Did I make the people around me and the places I visit a little better? If yes, it’s a good day. Sometimes there are days where the answer is no, which means I should try and make time the next day to make something different.

I still get caught up in the lists and things that I did. Hopefully I’ll be able to celebrate more and focus on what I make every day soon enough.

I Just Want a Microphone: How I Gave Up and Refound What I Want To Be When I’m Older.

Some people talked me out of a career path that I now find myself getting back on. Don’t be that person.

When I was four, I wanted to be a fire truck. Not the firefighter, just the truck. I wanted to take the firefighters to the fire and then let them deal with it.

Honetly though, I wanted to be a sportscaster since I was 12 years old. I would listen to the calls of Maple Leaf games or watch TSN and know that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a sports journalist. I watched the networks endlessly. I idolized Cabbie, a personality on The Score (now with TSN) who was so effortless and fun in his interviews. I was going to be that guy, and I told everyone.

A few relatives heard what I wanted to be and told me this:

“Oh, no. Don’t do that. That’s not worthy of your skills and your brain power. It’s not worth it.”

Fun fact: If you tell a twelve-year-old that something isn’t worth it and is a bad idea, they’re likely to listen to you.

So I didn’t pursue it. Instead, I went into what was considered a more noble profession: teaching. I went off to university, and through my academics I really learned what my skills were. My best skills might be talking, writing, and researching. What skills do you need to be a journalist?

Yep, exactly.

They also help in standup (which I love) and public speaking (which I love) and this website (you get the idea, right?).

I eventually did follow my dream and did a post-grad in Sports Journalism and it was one of the most fulfilling academic experiences of my life. Calling basketball games on the radio was a thrill. Interviewing athletes and Olympians was a dream. It was hard, but it was worth it.

Eventually I got to intern at TSN. I met a wrestler I loved watching growing up. I met Cabbie. This was the life.

I’m now in another field I discovered and fell in love with (what up, student affairs) that fulfills me. It’s also great, because I can continue to do what I love on the side while working here. This year I’m going to be calling Lakehead basketball games on the radio and for OUA TV. It’s a Hannah Montana, best of both worlds situation.\

So what’s the point in me telling you this? It’s pretty simple: don’t be that relative.

Support what kids are interested in. If they discover an interest in makeup, science, woodworking, whatever. Support them, encourage them, and tell them to give it their best shot. In life, it is not up to you to decide if what makes people happy is worthy of their work. I know bosses who are miserable and bartenders who are peachy because they love their work. Encourage them to try new things and be open, but stoke that fire when you see it ignite in someone.

I had most of my family support me in wanting to be a sports journalist, but those few people managed to sway me enough to not pursue what is a dream career. Instead of being them, be the ones who support and nurture those dreams. Sometimes they will pan out, and sometimes they won’t, but they’ll never know unless you let them try.

*Authors note – I wrote this out all at once and tried to publish it and it deleted. That was slightly enraging. Always remember to save your work, people. Nothing else, this is just a PSA.*

Vacation Thoughts

Two trips, some thoughts, and a new itch to travel.

Hey everyone! Guess who is back from vacation?

I managed to schedule both of my biggest things this summer in the span of two and a half weeks, meaning my Instagram was great for 18 days and then will go back to attempted artsy photos.

I went to America for the first time since 2005 when I visited Minneapolis, Minnesota first. A few weekends later, it was off to Montreal for my first Osheaga. In the interim, I took some time off from writing because vacation is vacation, and also my mom came to visit Thunder Bay. It was nifty.

Anyways, I figured my first post back from vacation might as well be about the vacations themselves. This won’t be like one of those vacation slide shows where I show Let’s start with America.

Minnesota & Going Back to America

Like I said, it’s been 12 years since I was last in the U.S. of A. Lots can change in 12 years. For example, I learned how to not wear my hair like a sheepdog.

Also, the Fast and the Furious movies went from two movies about Vin Diesel stealing cars to eight movies about The Rock attempting to blow up the sun, I think. Lots of change, and lots of things to notice.

  • When people asked us why we had come to Minneapolis, they were very confused to hear us say vacation. They couldn’t really grasp that they were the best tourist destination in an 7 hour radius of Thunder Bay, but it’s the truth.
  • Generalization time, but wow people love putting bumper stickers on cars in America. No better way to show off that you’re still a Bernie Bro than keeping the sticker of him for 2016 on your ’99 Toyota Corolla for all to see. Strong opinions on the backs of cars too, which seems like a great way to get the family behind you to all turn on each other on their way to Walgreens.
  • The main part of the trip was to see a couple Minnesota Twins games. The last one fell on Military Appreciation Day and it was an experience. While Canada seems to have a much more subdued and quieter patriotism (World Junior Hockey Championships excluded), there was a ton of out loud patriotism in that ball park: people in American flag shirts, a military helicopter flying overhead, multiple USA chants, and one hell of a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. When I hear Americans chant that they are number one, I kind of get it. They’re told it every day.
  • For some reason, debit machines that come to your table are not a thing in the U.S. and it’s oddly stressful seeing someone just walk away with your credit card.
  • When an American learned we were Canadian, they would pop if we said “eh.” Made for an easy way to make friends.
  • I’m really excited to go to my 3rd state, Nebraska, in November now. Bring on corn!


Montreal a.k.a. When I Learned I Should’ve Taken French Through High School

Montreal is a beautiful city with vibrant art and culture and an affinity for bagels. If the Habs weren’t in the town, I’d probably like to live there. Kidding, kind of.

  • Osheaga music festival is a beautiful disaster. Beautiful in terms of location, music, aesthetic, everything. The disaster was getting in and out of the park, and trying to find friends. Sorry, friends I didn’t see.
  • Nothing is stranger than meeting someone from your far past and seeing how much you may have changed but things can still be similar. Case in point – seeing an old middle school friend who has been so successful in the arts made me happy for them, and hungry for me. It’s now a more focused goal, I think. So thanks for that if you’re reading. Catching up with you briefly was a highlight of the trip.
  • Always charge your phone before a music festival. Always.
  • I hadn’t been in a mosh pit since the eighth grade (trying to impress the girl from two points earlier, I’m pretty sure) but it was fun as hell. PUP is great.
  • There is so much music that I had no idea was out there and incredible. The three days were a crash course in genres I have no expertise in, and that made it so much fun.
  • Festival stand hot dogs are not enough to sustain a person for a full three days.
  • Montreal is another city to revisit on a non-festival weekend to take in the sights. The people are so nice and the street art was incredible.

Final Thoughts

I know lots of people get struck by the travelling bug, and these are some pretty tame forays into the world. My dad sarcastically called me worldly and Carmen Sandiego when I got back. Yet for me, this is a big expansion. Minneapolis is one of the farthest places I’ve gone from my hometown, and Montreal was my first real time in Quebec.*

*I refuse to count a one-time trip to Hull to go to a casino with my university roommates. No French was spoken, and we lost what seemed like a lot of money during roulette.

So, where to next? Aside from Nebraska, my calendar is open. If you have any suggestions, comment them or message them to me! I’m down to road trip, and my flight anxiety is slowly but surely leaving me. Til next time, friends!

Sunday Stand-up: Dave Chapelle’s For What It’s Worth

Prime Dave Chapelle riffing on the weird things in the world.

Like most teenage millennial boys, I was swept up in The Chapelle Show when it first came on. I could recite all the catchphrases, and even though I didn’t get every joke I thought it was fantastic.

That show was my first exposure to Dave Chapelle, which led me to For What It’s Worth. It is a full hour in San Francisco with Dave riffing on a bunch of topics. It goes from the bizarre, to why white people are better to drink with, to how he tries to avoid commenting on political issues because of what happened to the Dixie Chicks.

His return to standup on Netflix this year was not as well received, but check out him at his best here: