Conan O'Brien Discusses Why Political Comedy Is So Unfunny These Days

He also explained why John Mulaney is an exception to the rule

BY Alex HudsonPublished Sep 28, 2023

It's not easy to make genuinely funny jokes about Donald Trump and his cronies, who are already so ridiculous and craven that they tend to inspire rage-bait as well lazy jokes about fake tan and combovers. Now, Conan O'Brien has discussed the struggle of the recent era of political comedy.

"There's so much political comedy now which is wailing one way or the other," he said on an episode of his podcast Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend published on Monday (September 25). "It doesn't feel to me like a satisfying time to be a comedy writer if you're trying to do politics, because there's so much that's just attitude."

Conan's guest, comedy writer (and longtime Saturday Night Live staple) Jim Downey, agreed and pointed out a rare Trump bit that actually resonated: "There's a temptation to enrage the audience. Personally, I just fucking loathe Trump as a human being, but it doesn't mean that just attacking him is funny. There are interesting ways to attack him. I always liked John Mulaney's thing about, 'There's a horse loose in the hospital.'"

Downey is referring to a bit from Mulaney's 2018 stand-up special Kid Gorgeous, in which the comedian compares the absurdity of Trump being the president to a horse running loose in a hospital. "It was a great metaphor for Trump being president," said O'Brien, "and what I loved about it was, it captured the absurdity of it all, but it did it in this way that there was no bile. It was purely comedic, which I loved."

Below, watch Mulaney's memorable bit about the horse loose in a hospital. Meanwhile, as Trump gears up for an exhausting and scary reelection campaign, the challenges continue for political comics.

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