Broad City's Clinton Worship Is Not New: 7 Times Comedy Flattered the Powerful

The old journalism adage, "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," should also apply to comedy. Sadly, this is not always the case. Nowadays, you're more likely to see comedians throwing punches on behalf of the powerful. Such episodes are common in the world of ratings-driven comedy, and it happened again on Wednesday night’s episode of "Broad City," which featured our two protagonists gleefully simpering over a sycophantic cameo by Hillary Clinton:

This type of celebrity crush almost always leads to dull comedy. Here are some of the worst recent offenders.

1. Dana Carvey/George H.W. Bush. Dana Carvey made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live due to his dead-on impression of President George H.W. Bush, but his impression was never wielded to undermine or satirize the president. It focused mainly on rhetorical tics, avoiding the more scathing ribbing of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin or Will Ferrell's George W. Bush. Carvey even struck up a bit of a friendship with the 41st president, visiting him as a guest of the White House on more than one occasion and even appearing in a 2014 documentary honoring Bush.

2. Key and Peele/President Obama. The Key and Peele show proved over its four-year run to be one of the more reliably funny shows of its time, getting better with each season. “Obama’s Anger Translator,” a sketch from the first season that was sympathetic to the first black president navigating America’s racist expectations became a presidential favorite. Obama told Jimmy Fallon in 2012 that he personally enjoyed the bit after his staff shared it with him. This led to a White House invitation to host the ultimate DC insider get-together, the Correspondents' Dinner. While it did address a real phenomenon in terms of how white Americans saw Obama, the substance of the bit amounts to little more than a commercial for the policy achievments of the most powerful man on earth.

3. Saturday Night Live/Rudolph Giuliani. While it’s understandable SNL would have the New York mayor as host weeks after 9/11 and why they would go easy on him, one sketch in particular was little more than a commercial for Giuliani’s mayorship. Giuliani played a cantankerous taxi driver whose list of complaints to his unsuspecting passengers were all thinly veiled commercials for Giuliani: fewer peep shows, porn, crime, and fifth. Again, understandable after the worst terrorist attack in the country's history, but one would think this would be an excuse to promote New York, not Giuliani's legacy.

4. Joe Piscopo/Frank Sinatra. Piscopo was unapologetic about his love for the Chairman of the Board and his impression reflected that. Not wanting to offend Sinatra, Piscopo reportedly consulted with Sinatra’s songwriter Sammy Cahn while writing a musical number for a sketch. Piscopo was said to have disliked Phil Hartman's Sinatra impression which replaced his, finding it mean-spirited and insulting. It’s no surprise that Hartman’s scathing Sinatra routine is, in retrospect, light years funnier than Piscopo’s stilted homage.  

5. Jon Stewart/President Barack Obama. Jon Stewart has a long history of lobbing softballs to President Obama. Stewart never hid his liberal bent, but it’s no coincidence the Daily Show became flatter as the Obama administration wore on. The once fiery host was reduced to mocking the far-right Tea Party movement which was righteous and necessary, but never quite felt as fun as it did when the Daily Show went after Bush and his gang. In 2015, Politico revealed that Stewart had had two private rendezvous with the president at the White House. One meeting in February 2014 was followed by a pro-Obama segment on the crisis in Ukraine.

6. Saturday Night Live/Donald Trump. This election has been all Donald, all the time, so it’s no surprise zeitgeist-chasing SNL would want to have him on, despite protests from Latino groups that accused the show of giving Trump yet more free publicity. What was disappointing wasn’t just that they had him on the show, it’s how easily they let the ethnic-cleansing-promoting frontrunner off the hook, giving Trump what the Guardian called “veto power” over the sketches. Predictably, what resulted were lazy impressions, toothless digs and faux-self mockery that ended up being another primetime hour's worth of Trump’s $400 million in free press he’s conned out of the media so far during this election cycle.

7. Stephen Colbert/ Henry Kissinger. One of the least attractive things about the otherwise lovable Stephen Colbert is his long-time embrace of war criminal Henry Kissinger. Kissinger had a hand in a number of human rights violations, from the illegal carpet-bombing of Cambodia that killed at least 50,000 civilians to the CIA-backed right-wing coups in Argentina and Chile. None of these seemed to bother Colbert, whose show built up such rapport with the former Nixon aide that he made several appearances on the show, including a notable cameo in the series finale.


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