What Alec Baldwin gets wrong about his Trump impression

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Story highlights

  • Dean Obeidallah: Some progressives think jokes about Trump minimize the seriousness of the threat Trump poses
  • But here's the truth: Political comedy at its best both educates and entertains, he writes

Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio's daily program "The Dean Obeidallah Show" and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)You might want to sit down before you read this: Alec Baldwin just announced that his equally hilarious and biting impression of Donald Trump might be coming to an end next month when "Saturday Night Live" closes its current season.

No, this isn't because of Trump's tweets slamming Baldwin or the iconic late-night comedy show. Rather, Baldwin says, he's considering self-retiring his Trump impression.
Dean Obeidallah
Why? Baldwin believes there may no longer be an appetite to laugh at Trump by the time "SNL" kicks off its new season in the fall. As the Emmy-winning actor stated, "If everything stays the same in this country as it is now, I don't think people will be in the mood to laugh about it come September."
What he's actually saying is that it may no longer be appropriate for us to laugh at Trump come the fall. That comment may stun or even confuse some people. I've heard it before, though, so let me explain what he's getting at.
There are progressives who truly believe that jokes about Trump -- and even Baldwin's impression of Trump -- somehow minimize the seriousness of the threat Trump poses. Their concern is misplaced.
On Saturday, I was on CNN with anchor Ana Cabrera discussing Trump's conflicts with Republicans in Congress -- and I joked that watching the GOP civil war was more fun than "Netflix and chill."
Some found my joke funny, others did not. That's how jokes normally go. But nothing is "normal" in the time of Trump. So one progressive friend tweeted in response to my joke, "Cute but NOT. This is our life. Now. Very very serious. Please don't minimize." And another progressive friend agreed with this comment by liking the tweet.
This isn't the first time I've gotten comments like this. Some, especially on the left, sincerely believe that by joking about Trump, comedians are somehow normalizing him and undermining the legitimate fear many communities -- such as immigrants, Muslims, poor people and women -- feel living under Trump's leadership.
But here's the truth: Political comedy at its best both educates and entertains. We need to mock Trump more now than ever. Jokes about Trump are a form of resistance. The hope is that these jokes will influence people's views of Trump.
In fact, Baldwin's former "30 Rock" co-star Tina Fey gave us an example of great political comedy Friday night when she was part of an online fundraiser to benefit the ACLU. Fey joked, "Earlier tonight, in what is surely an April Fools' joke, the President proclaimed that next month will be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. ... So now we know what he gave up for Lent."
Why was this joke such great political comedy? First, it informed people of something many didn't know, namely that Trump had declared April "National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month." And then Fey delivered a punchline to remind us of Trump's horrible history of sexual misconduct with women, which we all learned about in the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.
Comedy legend Robert Klein also made the case for more political comedy at Trump's expense while a guest on my SiriusXM radio show this week. Klein explained that leading up to the election every comedian was telling Trump jokes. But then after Trump shockingly won, Klein noted that there was a "moribund feeling where it wasn't so funny."
Klein, a true stand-up comedy pioneer, added, "But now I think it's so important that Samantha Bee, Colbert and 'Saturday Night Live' " use comedy to "needle" Trump. Klein continued: "And to prove how important it is, if you do that sort of thing at the moment in Russia or Turkey or China ... you will either wind up dead or in prison."
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Laughing at Trump is also vitally important because it's both cathartic and empowering. For many, Trump is causing real stress. Being able to laugh at Trump helps us cope. And Klein is right; some leaders want to be feared, not laughed at. Trump has said he won't attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, but other than that, most of us won't face prison for mocking him. So the more we laugh, the more it undermines Trump's "scary factor."
So here's hoping Baldwin continues with his Trump impression for as long as Trump remains in the White House. At this point, we don't need fewer jokes at Trump's expense, we need even more -- for the good of America and for my own sanity.