This Thanksgiving, comedians should give thanks for Trump

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anthony atamaniuk late night trump documentary rs_00014423

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Story highlights

  • Dean Obeidallah: Thanks to Trump, late-night comedians are greater than ever
  • Comedians like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Samantha Bee keep us sane in the age of Trump, 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)This first Thanksgiving under President Donald Trump is going to be very challenging for some. This month, Trump's approval rating hit a new low and a majority of Americans believe our nation is on the wrong track. Add to that, many of those critical of Trump are dreading the prospect of being trapped at a Thanksgiving gathering with that pro-Trump uncle who responds to every political point with, "But what about Hillary Clinton..."

But come Thanksgiving, one group of people should truly be giving thanks for Trump: Late-night comedians.
Trump has made late-night comedy great again -- at least those who have made mocking Trump a central part of their shows. In fact, Trump content has been such an important staple for many of today's most-watched comedy shows that CNN will be airing a special report on Monday night: "Late Night in the Age of Trump," hosted by Brian Stelter.
    The big winner in the late-night world is arguably Stephen Colbert, who had a rocky start to his tenure as host of the "Late Show," coming in third behind both Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel among the younger viewers in early 2016.
    Flash forward to 2017, and Colbert's ratings have skyrocketed with the help of President Donald J. Trump. In fact, Colbert stunned the industry by having the most viewers for a late-night show in the 2016-17 broadcast season. (The "Tonight Show" still was No. 1 among viewers 18 to 49.)
    One of the defining jokes in Colbert's ascendancy came on the heels of Trump's first solo press conference as President in February. Colbert first played a clip of Trump telling reporters that he had "inherited a mess. It's a mess." Then in response, Colbert joked, "No, you inherited a fortune. We elected a mess."
    But Colbert is far for from the only late-night comedian to see a tremendous Trump bump in his show's ratings and relevancy. "SNL" ended its 42nd season in May with its highest-watched season in 23 years, in large part due to the comedy fileting of Trump by way of Alec Baldwin's Emmy-winning portrayal of the President and Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer. While over on TBS, Samantha Bee saw her ratings early in 2017 jump 175% from the year prior as she comically pounded Trump.
    For others in late night, Trump provided more than just a ratings bump. Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," hosted by Trevor Noah, has become much sharper as the show has narrowed in on all things Trump. NBC's "Late Night" host Seth Meyers has also been praised by many for not just his political comedy but for his interview of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, which a Vox article described as "what late-night hosts should emulate under Trump."
    But the late-night comedian who has probably been most vocal on policy issues is ABC's Jimmy Kimmel. His tear-filled plea in May after his son was born with a heart defect urging Congress to reject efforts to undermine protection for people with pre-existing conditions transcended the world of late-night entertainment. It galvanized a national debate on the issue and actually inspired Sen. Bill Cassidy to coin the "Jimmy Kimmel Test," a metric by which to evaluate proposed healthcare plans.
    Despite all this success, some might be shocked to learn that some of these comedians would actually trade all the Trump comedy material if it meant less of Trump's antics or even no Trump as president.
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    When I asked Meyers, who was a guest on my SiriusXM radio show, if the Trump-inspired comedy material outweighed the "stress and anxiety" of Trump, Meyers responded bluntly, "I'd trade this in a heartbeat."
    In the time of Trump, we need to laugh more than ever. Laughter is a coping mechanism that helps so many of us keep sane! Thankfully, we have the late-night comedians to help us with that every night. And thanks to Trump, these late-night comedians are greater than ever.