Outcry over Trump interview is unwarranted

London Bolsius

Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon is facing unprecedented criticism for his recent handling of an interview with Republican candidate Donald Trump. Publications decried Fallon’s lack of hardball questions, suggesting that he is cozying up to the presidential candidate. However, Trump’s appearance is not unique, for presidential candidates have appeared on late night shows for decades. In the nearly 60 years since John F. Kennedy’s appearance on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show,” society, and particularly college students, have become less accepting of this kind of lighthearted comedy.

The recent trend of politicized comedy began with Jon Stewart’s satirical “The Daily Show.” In fact, it launched the careers of two of today’s most prolific comedians, Steven Colbert and John Oliver, both of whom rely heavily on covering political events. The formats of Colbert’s “Late Show” and Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” have created a skewed view of what comedians are to millennials. The pseudo-journalistic approach Oliver takes has created a false expectation of comedians having journalistic responsibility, leading to the double standard by which Fallon was judged harshly and unfairly.

Another factor stifling comedy is the shift in generational attitudes due to a culture of political correctness. Bill Maher’s 2014 commencement speech at UC-Berkeley was met with student-led protests over anti-Islamic remarks. Jerry Seinfeld refuses to perform at college campuses, stating that students are too eager to label things as “racist” or “sexist,” the same labels used to attack Trump and apparently make him late-night talk show anathema. Compared to previous generations, college students today are less accepting of offensive forms of humor.

“Edgy comedians and alt-comedy often were aimed at the college crowd where irreverence was encouraged, but we don’t know if college students are any more subversive in their comic tastes than the general population,” American Studies professor Randy Lewis said. “My impression is that college students are fairly mainstream in their tastes nowadays, more so than in the counterculture-infected 60s and 70s.”

The lack of high-profile comedians on campus is also noticed by the Campus Events + Entertainment, whose Headliners committee is responsible for providing musical and comedic programming.

“We get emails from bands and artists almost daily wanting to perform on campus, but I cannot recall more than two or three times when we have been approached by a comedian,” said government junior Ray Curiel, chair of the Headliners committee. “College campuses are a completely different crowd than the general public when it comes to what is funny and what is offensive.”

Fallon is an entertainer, not a journalist.  Accordingly, he shouldn’t be held to the same standards as a journalist. His interview with Hillary Clinton featured similar ridiculous antics, including greeting her with a surgical mask, and resulted in no public outcry. Many with political disagreements with Trump refuse to accept anything that puts him in a light other than that of complete condemnation. However, in this tense and heated election season, it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take things a little less seriously.