Many have tried to understand the way Donald Trump’s mind operates, but Daily Show host Trevor Noah thinks he’s cracked it: The president is a stand-up comedian.
“He goes out, he practices his jokes, he works on his material,” Noah told Seth Meyers on Wednesday’s Late Night, pointing to Trump floating the idea of pardoning Joe Arpaio to his rally crowd in Phoenix. “You can see him trying it out ... [when] the crowd cheers, he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m working on that bit.’”
Noah says that Trump’s catchphrases go through the same kinds of life and death cycles that comedians’s do. “Build the wall!” used to be a crowd-killer, Noah says, but now Trump’s crowds want “new jokes” to latch onto and print on T-shirts. Maybe Trump’s recent deal with Democrats isn’t quite what they had in mind, but as Noah points out, it at least makes for some surprising new material.
And if this all sounds flippant, Noah goes on to explain why, exactly, he finds it so necessary to find ridiculous things about Trump to laugh at. “There are many countries I’ve been to where people don’t have free speech,” he said, “and one of the biggest things that an authoritarian leader tries to remove from you is the ability to make jokes about them.”
“A person is less frightening when we are laughing,” Noah continued, “but it’s how we cope with these situations.”
So yes, Trump’s time in office so far has included moments that may feel too catastrophic to joke about. But Noah is still grateful for and insistent on exercising his right to find a way to laugh about the more ridiculous things Trump does. Or as Noah put it: “On the one hand, I’m terrified of the notion that he’s the most powerful person in the world. On the other, I know that I’m going to wake up and he’s going to make me laugh. The two things co-exist.”
You can watch more of Noah’s interview in the clip above; the stand-up comedian part starts about a minute in.