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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Funny or not, the celebrit-ocracy permeates Trump-era politics

Kate McKinnon, left, as counselor to the president

Kate McKinnon, left, as counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Alec Baldwin as President Donald Trump, and Cecily Strong as first lady Melania Trump in the "White House Tree Trimming" sketch from the "Saturday Night Live" episode that aired Dec. 16, 2017. Photo Credit: NBC/Will Heath

The powers in Washington have dealt for years with Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma and Big Tech.

The presidency of Donald Trump might be said to mark the rise of Big Comedy.

At "Saturday Night Live," the president's bad-sport Twitter grousing about the show might only encourage the writers to give Alec Baldwin even more of a platform to mimic Trump. 

Showtime's animated "Our Cartoon President," produced by Stephen Colbert, has been renewed for a second season. "South Park" and "Family Guy" haven't shunned the real-life material provided by the White House.

Late-night TV hosts perform monologues that get rehashed the following morning on broadcast sites and spread on millions of personal devices. 

But in Trump, we're seeing more than just a boon to satire.

There is point of view and participation too.

Jimmy Kimmel got attention with personal pleas involving children's' health care coverage. Jon Stewart lobbied Congress to make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent and chided news agencies for their short attention span. Trevor Noah wasn't being particularly amusing when he slammed those who attacked inquiries into Trump-Russia connections.

Mainstream controversies and where-do-you-draw-the-line discussions followed a particularly revolting anti-Trump display by Kathy Griffin. Michele Wolf's rough treatment of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seated on a dais nearby during Wolf's 2018 performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, got organizers to refrain from featuring a comedian this year for the first time in memory.

Ex-comic and Democrat Al Franken was pressured out of the Senate after the #MeToo movement found some of his personal antics none too funny.

Trump's friends in the entertainment industry have made themselves heard too.

Roseanne Barr's racially-tinged crack about former Obama administration aide Valerie Jarrett derailed Barr's television career. Ted Nugent, a White House dinner guest, has aimed crude and even violent rhetoric at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Some on the right have complained bitterly of a "comedy cabal" that weaponizes entertainment for the left.

Some of those performing the skits have expressed different concerns. 

"It’s terrible for comedy," SNL's Michael Che told The Washington Post in 2017. "Now you gotta dedicate 10 minutes about Trump. He’s the elephant in the room and it makes for the same types of jokes all the time. When you talk about him, you’re pretty much saying the same things about him.”

Celebrity candidacies like Trump's — a path paved by one-time actor Ronald Reagan — have continued to crop up, such as comedian Beppo Grillo's runs for national office in Italy, and Cynthia Nixon's bid for governor in New York . 

During the 2016 campaign, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the HBO's "Veep," said in an awards speech that the show "has torn down the wall between comedy and politics." She said half-seriously that it "started out as a political satire but now feels more like a sobering documentary.

"So I certainly do promise to re-build that wall," she quipped, "and make Mexico pay for it."

There is a key twist here. Trump himself has been aptly compared to an insult comic and his rallygoers seem to find him not just sentimentally correct but funny.

Remember Trump's mockery on stage of a disabled reporter and of Clinton collapsing from pneumonia? Fan reaction seemed to tell him it was gold, Donnie, gold.

If the culture of politics and the politics of the culture keep going this way, April Fools' Day could become a national holiday.

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