THE role of laughter in the serious business of political campaigns has a long lineage. In fact, satire and parody were born almost concurrently with politics. In the ancient world, writers like Aristophanes and Horace deployed humor to keep a check on the affairs of state. In 21st-century America, shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show” perform a similar service. During the 2008 election, Tina Fey’s impersonations of Sarah Palin were credited with damaging Palin’s image and the McCain-Palin ticket more broadly.
America’s current presidential race has provided more than its share of material ripe for comedic send-up: Larry David’s Bernie Sanders, gesturing wildly and railing against Wall Street (“You gotta break the banks up into little pieces, and flush the pieces down the toilet!”). Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton stiffly attempting to appeal to voters (“Citizens, you will elect me! I will be your leader!”). But the favourite target has been Donald Trump. Voters who despise his politics have been hard pressed not to take pleasure in laughing at Mr Trump’s grandiose pronouncements. Mrs Clinton herself has struggled to keep a straight face. When his name came up in an interview with ABC News, she giggled and apologised, “I’m sorry, I can’t help it.”