I was really looking forward to Showtime’s Our Cartoon President. Laughing at the president–who is a cartoon–in actual cartoon form promised to be cathartic. Alas, no. And there’s really only one reason I didn’t laugh: Our Cartoon President is deeply, painfully unfunny.
Maybe Trump and his administration simply aren’t easy targets. Trump himself is already cartoonishly stupid, crass and crude. I think that when you’re doing satire you almost necessarily have to go broad but is there a way to go broader than current reality? Perhaps this the predicament the creative crew at OCP faces with each episode: how do we top the absurdity of reality? And in trying to they’ve made some bad choices: they’ve actually made Trump smarter than he is, which is wildly unsatisfying and criminally unfunny.
One of the reasons The President Show succeeds is because it often just goes balls-to-wall for the dumb, the dark and the surreal. My only problem with the show is that often the Anthony Atamanuik’s natural charm supersedes his Trump imitation and it can kind of take you out of the scene, as it were. Yes, he’s smarmy and gross, but dammit, sometimes he’s just not smarmy and gross enough. And maybe this is problem that any satirist is going to bump into trying to imitate Trump: how do you go dark enough to really bite without turning into drama?
Is it a fine line? It may be. But Our Cartoon President hopped over it with its tired, hackneyed jokes and what feels like a bunch of pulled punches. You cannot pull your punches these days. We are living in end times. We are living in Onion times.