Almost two years after President Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, and just weeks away from the midterms, comedy legends Dave Chappelle and Jon Stewart laid bare their thoughts on the state of their nation, and warned against ascribing racial or class divisions purely to President Trump’s election, or Russian meddling.
“Even when they say that Russia influenced the election,” Chappelle said, “it’s kind of like, is Russia making us racist? Is that who’s doing it? Oh OK, oh my God, thank goodness – I thought it was us.”
“If they killed the country that way then we’re the murder weapon,” he joked.
In an exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour for her program on CNN International and PBS, Chappelle said President Trump gets “too much credit” for defining the era.
“He’s not making the wave, he’s surfing it.”
The ‘right thing at the right time’
Just days after Election Day 2016, Chappelle delivered “Saturday Night Live’s” opening monologue.
“I’m going to give him a chance,” he said at the time. “And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”
It was the “right thing at the right time” to say, he now opines.
“I’m a black American, so we’ve – these feelings that people felt right after the election, we’ve felt them, many elections consecutively. And to some degree, people overreacted. The alternative to giving him a chance was storming the street.”
But two years on from that olive branch, the comedian spoke with less optimism.
“Is he doing a good job? Am I happy with what he’s doing? No, it’s been very difficult to watch the last couple of years.”
After an impromptu joint show last year on the day of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the two comics have teamed up for a global comedy tour tackling some of America’s darkest challenges, including gun violence and the opioid crisis.
Stewart, too, said “there was a part of me” that hoped being in the White House would transform the person Trump had been as a candidate.
In reality, he now says, “I imagine he walked in that room – he’s like, ‘Take that down, take that down, put up dogs playing poker. Can a fellow get some French fries around here?’”
“Oddly enough, he transformed the White House, and the White House wasn’t able to transform him.”
Trump versus the press
Stewart did not reserve his criticism solely for the President. Pointing fingers at the press, the former “Daily Show” host lamented the ongoing clashes between the White House and the media, arguing that reporting on their own war of words with the White House distracts Americans from the damaging consequences of his policies.
“I’m less interested in his insults and more interested in his injuries – in the people that are being hurt, not the people that are being insulted,” Stewart said.
“They are personally offended and wounded by this man. He baits them and they dive in.”