Getting through the Covid-19 Pandemic, particularly under quarantine, can be difficult to traverse. The demand for information remains high, but most would agree the need to laugh is even greater. The solution, of course, is to combine the two. Comedic news shows have been around for a long time in the U.S., but there has never been a better time to watch them.
Depending how you define them, comedic news shows date back to Weekend Update on Saturday Night live in 1975. Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin were the first anchors back then and they really set the standard. Fast forward 15 years or so and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher lands on Comedy Central. Being more of a comedic political talk-show, it did set the stage for The Daily Show three short years later.
In the last decade, comedy news shows have exploded across television sets and streaming services thanks in large part to the popularity of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon might now be gone, but the show remains and has influenced countless others shows to follow in its footsteps. Many of which feature Daily Show alumni.
Somehow, in the midst of a global pandemic, social unrest, an election year and an incompetent administration, comedians and their writing staffs are still finding a way to be funny and informative. When it comes to comedic news shows, here is what I think represent the cream of the crop.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – Comedy Central
Jon Stewart handed the show he made famous to South African comedian Trevor Noah back in 2015. Despite the big shoes he had to fill, early concerns about Noah proved to be unfounded and the show under his wing received positive reviews.
Trevor Noah also had to deal with a revolving door of talent that went on to do similar things elsewhere. Many of whom are on this list. As one of the few visible minority comedians to host his own show, Noah has been able to keep the show relevant and funny in ways Stewart could not.
Under the name “The Daily Social Distancing Show” during the pandemic, Trevor Noah and his writers have, like many others, broadcast from home. Despite the change in scenery, the show has not lost its edge. Their coverage of the George Floyd Killing is proof of that.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – TBS
Sam Bee recently joked that she was basic cable’s Jon Oliver. The truth is she’s a Jon Stewart scholar. When you learn from the best, no point in hiding it. Her show Full Frontal on TBS is funny, tense, and unique in that it provides a desperately needed female perspective.
The show itself is like the Daily Show without a desk. Full Frontal reminds me more of Sam Bee’s role as a correspondent on The Daily Show. She seems to prefer going on the road and engaging with people more than sitting in a studio.
Samantha Bee is the Queen of the smackdown. Her insults, especially toward other women, are legendary. Some people think she takes it too far. Like the time she called Ivanka a feckless c**t over her dad’s immigration policies. Must be Sam’s hard Canadian upbringing.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj – Netflix
Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act is just that, an act of patriotism. A weekly dose of finding America’s deepest societal problems, exposing them, and suggesting how to fix them. The episodes are only 22 minutes long on average and there only 6 or 7 episodes per season, but they pack an awful lot of jokes and information into each topic. The show moves amazingly fast.
Hasan is a Muslim comedian of Indian origins who also got his break as a correspondent on the Daily Show. His ethnic background gives him a totally unique view of not just the United States, but the world as a whole. He often does entire shows on events taking place outside the U.S.
Minhaj knows how to use social media very well and communicates great with his audience as demonstrated by his Deep Cuts segments on YouTube. I have to say he’s also one of the more funny interviewers around.
Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp – RT
Lee Camp is one of the more progressive comedians you’ll find. He’s also one of the most sarcastic. His show, Redacted Tonight, is broadcast on RT America (Russian Television) where you’ll find a lot of older progressive voices. Chris Hedges, Jesse Ventura, Etc.
Despite RT America’s relative independence, to show his sense of humor, Camp starts off most shows by declaring “Where Americans in America covering American news are called foreign agents.” It’s usually followed by a ten minute, in depth funny rant about an issue of the day.
The show is important in the sense that it goes places other mainstream media and comedic television news shows go. Calling out the Military and Prison industrial Complexes for example, not to mention hammering away at unfettered capitalism. Camp is also one of the few people on television that understand that Trump is a symptom of the larger problem, rather than the problem itself.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – HBO
John Oliver, my personal favorite, and the last of the Daily Show’s former all-star cast on this list. His show and writers have deservedly won multiple Emmy Awards. The weekly HBO program usually follows a star-studded group of shows that airs Sunday nights. Not because he needs the boost, but because he deserves to be alongside them.
Always the self-ridiculing host, Oliver is funny in ways that basic cable television doesn’t allow others to be. The main stories run for roughly twenty minutes. They are in depth, often hilarious, extremely important and can sometimes come off as miniature Michael Moore documentaries, only funnier.
I don’t always see eye to eye with his opinions, but he always manages to teach people a thing or two. His segment on smoking and the tobacco industry a few years ago actually influenced me enough to quit after 20 years.
I never thought I’d see the day when this list of comedic news shows would grow more than five long, but he we are. Although they run more traditional late-night talk shows, I have to give a shout out to yet another Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert and former SNL weekend update anchor Seth Meyers. Colbert’s monologues are terrific and Meyer’s “A Closer Look” segments are fantastic.
I feel I must give another shout out to Bill Maher who’s still on HBO after 18 years. Bill has fallen from grace, at least in my opinion. He can still be very funny, but he’s just not as informed as he once was, and he comes off as just another entitled centrist media figure. Questioning on multiple occasions the existence of neo-liberalism and having offensive guests on like Bari Weiss and Ann Coulter make my blood boil.
Is there anyone I forgot or something you disagree with? Give me some feedback below!