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The Daily Show correspondents Roy Wood Jr. and Hasan Minhaj weigh in about the election and more
Roy Wood Jr. and Hasan Minhaj are both correspondents for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and so they pitch and shape the segments they are interested in with the show’s writers and field producers, organically intertwining their style and comedy into the final pieces. This also means that this past year, they’ve become very familiar with the presidential election. Last week, they talked to college news outlets across the country, including The Tech, discussing a variety of topics ranging from what their role as comedians with a platform in this election is to distinguishing between free speech and political correctness.
The first topic discussed was the role of comedy in highlighting important and contentious issues, especially during this election season. Wood said that “comedy is an entry point into serious discussions” and “makes the conversation more inclusive.” He explained that “if you watched The Daily Show and compared it to cable network news, there would be a great deal of overlap.” However, the way in which comedy approaches those discussions makes people more open to dealing with those issues. The less “preachy and substantive” approach is effective and helps people keep their sanity. When it's really serious news, Woods said, “We're not going to be first to crack a joke at the tragedy,” instead, they “pounce on the ridiculousness of some politician putting his foot in his mouth.”
Wood credits the increased role of political comedy to the growing appetite for it: many modern Americans prefer to consume their news this way, being entertained while informed. Minhaj attributes the success of political satire to the fact that they are “comedic synthesizers — essentially your funny history professors who do the heavy lifting of “going through all of WikiLeaks so you don’t have to.”
Both Minhaj and Wood agree that since we have a “comedian” running (in reference to Donald Trump), their comedy has been affected. Minhaj commented that political culture has become popular culture, saying that the “GOP ran the election like a high school election.” Wood said that as a comedian, you have to “cook with the ingredients you have,” and that the personal attacks that Clinton and Trump sling at each other provides them “ammunition.” As Minhaj said, “When Trump speaks like a racist dumpster fire, it is easy,” but it is also a “double edged sword” because his ridiculousness is now believable and normalized. Therefore, it is harder to creatively “caricature” someone who is already such a “racist pop star.”
When asked what they would tweet at themselves if they were Donald Trump, Wood said “Daily Show is terrible. Ratings are horrible." Minhaj came up with "Come November 9th. I'm deporting you and your family."
When asked about accidentally offending someone and the trickiness of navigating race humor without being overly inflammatory, Wood contends that “someone always is going to be mad,” but he trusts in the work that has got him this far. Wood said that being a minority has shaped his work. “You don’t know how much of what you're doing is enforcing others’ stereotypes about your race.” Minhaj said that he follows one rule: “punch up and don't punch down.” This is because “people who hold power over people can take it.”
On political correctness and free speech, Minhaj said we need to “use the lightsaber responsibly” and remember that “not everyone is a Jedi.” In regards to the Alt-right movement, Minhaj said that Americans should view not being able to use certain words anymore as an opportunity to become a better communicator, not as an effort by the government to take all of our rights.
Speaking about the rhetoric in this election, Minhaj described Trump as the “Voldemort” of systemic racism. Because of his campaign, “the Death Eaters are reawakened and coming out.” Both Wood and Minhaj don’t have guilt or regret for increasing Trump’s platform. As Wood counters, “What would the other story be? Is there another narrative for the election?”
Wood and Minhaj both avidly encourage millennials to vote in this election, and Wood believes his job is to “empower people with information.” He spoke about a piece he did a couple weeks ago with African-American millennials who didn’t like either Hillary or Trump and didn’t want to vote. Wood emphasized that “the ‘just screw those guys’ mentality is ignorant.” Minhaj added that we should not take our democracy for granted because there are “plenty of kids in Karachi who would love to switch spots with us.” While we laugh about the “deez nuts” candidate and use our election snap filters, there are people in other parts of the world who can’t vote or have to vote in rigged elections.
“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” will be airing a special one-hour live episode (11 p.m. ET and PT) on Election Night, Tuesday, Nov. 8 on Comedy Central.