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Opinion

Rachel Parris: ‘Trump and Johnson are gone but the joke’s still on us’

Late Night Mash host Rachel Parris writes that satire isn’t just about making fun of laughable politicians but to point out they’re dangerous

As the new host of Late Night Mash, it’s Rachel Parris’s job to find humour in the day-to-day political maelstrom. Here, she explains how the team do it.

“What are you gonna make jokes about now Trump and Johnson have gone?” This is a question that I’ve been asked a lot in the last few weeks; and I have taken to giving the reply “your mum” while I think about the real answer. 

The answer is of course – everything and everyone else. There is still plenty to mock among the folks in Westminster, from Thatcher cosplayer Liz Truss, to plucky millionaire underdog Rishi Sunak, to ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a woman who would consider Magic Mike XXL a show for the metropolitan elite (it is amazing tbf – take a grab bag of Minstrels and a hand-held fan).

For years, people had suggested that all of us who are in the satirical comedy game should be grateful to the likes of Trump and Johnson for providing us with such a wealth of material. I must admit I forgot to post my thank-you card to Johnson before he left, but at least I can blame it on the postal strikes.

The sad truth is there’s plenty of corruption, cronyism and car-crash viewing left in politics – in the US and over here – to lament in satire, even with Trump and Johnson gone. And even sadder: neither of those two are quite “gone” enough for my liking. I won’t feel happy until they’ve been jetted into space with a one-way ticket on Elon Musk’s giant penis rocket.

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In the US, with the reversal of Roe vs Wade, the rise of conspiracy theory networks like QAnon and an increasing mistrust in science or the media, it seems clear that the shockwaves from Trump’s time in office continue to have a massive effect on the people and the policies of the US. Or perhaps more that the reasons that someone like Trump could ever have got elected are still there in society – remember that guy dressed as a caveman in horns who stormed the Capitol? He has cousins.

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Even while the FBI are raiding his wet playroom, Trump is planning his next presidential campaign and Johnson has stated he is keen to still have a role in the Cabinet. I’m pretty sure Nadine Dorries would give him a roll anywhere so he’s still haunting British politics like a scruffy Etonian ghost – the worst kind of ghost. 

On the show I am hosting, we do not feel short of subject material. If anything, it was hard to write jokes about Trump and Johnson because their daily gaffes already sounded like a punchline. But it was always part of the joke-writing to remind people that while they were laughable, they were also dangerous. They weren’t just figures of fun, they were playing with our lives, albeit with extremely distracting hairdos. 

With the cost of living rising to unprecedented levels, climate change causing catastrophic floods in Pakistan and the Rwandan scheme for refugees still set to go ahead, I don’t feel grateful to Johnson for giving us comics a helping hand by saying “wiff-waff” or something equally alienating to anyone who didn’t grow up in a Dickensian novel. I don’t feel worried that we haven’t got Trump’s stupid tweets to fall back on for a laugh – we’ll always have covfefe. Because we’ve plenty more to say. 

They’ve left their mark, and right now comedians are moving on to what’s ahead – there’s always more scandals, more terrifying law changes, more U-turns than Escher’s toilet. Also you can bet that there are hundreds of wannabee-Trumps and mini-Johnsons out there, waiting for an emergency by-election or a national wave of panic to ride in on.

And when they do, we’ll be ready – armed with a ballpoint pen and a microphone… and a grab bag of Minstrels.

Late Night Mash, featuring Rachel Parris, is on Thursday nights on Dave

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