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This Election Is Even Tough For Comedians


So finally today, let's just get real. This election has been overwhelming for many people, relentless, ugly, depressing - you know. If you'd like a number to back that assertion up, there's a new poll out Friday for The New York Times that says this presidential campaign has left 8 out of 10 voters feeling more repulsed than excited. But we also wondered, is it funny? Even though we know that many of the late-night talk show hosts like Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee have been mining this election for material, we wondered about the guys out here just trying to entertain people on an evening out. And they're telling us, actually, it's been kind of a bomb.

To find out more, we called Washington, D.C.'s own Rob Maher. He's been a fixture on the D.C. comedy scene for nearly two decades now, performing at the DC Improv and around the country. Tomorrow, he'll be on Kevin Hart's new Comedy Central show, "Hart Of The City," but he was nice enough to stop by our studios in Washington, D.C., to talk about this. Welcome. Thanks for coming.

ROB MAHER: Thanks for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: So just a few days before the election, are we going to see any political jokes from you on Sunday?

MAHER: No. We recorded that already. And thankfully, there's no political jokes. So feel free to watch it, and you're not going to have to hear anything about the election.

MARTIN: And why do you say thankfully? For some people, that's bread and butter, talking about politics. You're like, nah.

MAHER: I don't think so. I think there used to be that time where you would go to a comedy club to hear people talk about the issues. But I think Facebook and Twitter has become that for people. There's whole cottage industries of websites and blogs and memes that are pro- this or anti- this. And people that feel that way, they gravitate to those sites and those like-minded people, and they make their jokes. And then I think the actual joking about politics and presidents and - is reserved for late-night hosts and "Saturday Night Live," I think.

MARTIN: Really, what I'm wondering is over the past two years - because elections really do last that long in the United States - did you try out any political material?

MAHER: Like, just the other night, as a matter of fact, I'm in Frederick, Md., so not far away, and it was a very small crowd. So I'm like, well, let's just conversation - let's just have a conversation. And I mentioned the election, and I just saw the body language. They were like, (groaning) because they don't want it. And I think - actually, I think it's three things. I think it's a lot of negativity. The people that are fired up are generally fired up to vote against one person more so than being so super-pro, I found. So you have that. You have just the length of it and the fact that it's - you know, we live in this day and age of 24-hour news, and it's just constant. And then I think both Hillary and Trump have been in the public eye for years. The jokes that have been said about them, they've been said for a while. So there's that sort of fatigue.

MARTIN: Is there anything funny about this election?

MAHER: (Laughter) To me, what's funny is - Thanksgiving is funny this year because if you have - you have two things. If you have a joint - one of these Redskins-Cowboys households where you might have - they're playing on Thanksgiving. So you have that tension. Then on the heels of this election, this is the year you might want to skip Thanksgiving because it sounds like it could be - or you just start drinking heavily. You show up, you know, you've had a couple already.

MARTIN: What would be different about that? I mean, like, tell me how that would be, like...

MAHER: No, you're right. Well, that's just my normal - but my family's alcoholics. We make bad decisions. But yeah - but I try to - like with Obama, I have - my girlfriend is - we have an interracial relationship, so I sort of turned that into my joke and that President Obama was good for me because, you know, he's a product of an interracial relationship. So that's sort of a good pickup line for me as a white man to meet a black woman. We could make a president. That's a powerful pickup line. So that's how I took politics and made it into sort of a joke to make it about my life.

MARTIN: OK. Before we let you go, do you have any advice for kind of getting through the next couple of days for people who want to try to keep it light?

MAHER: Log off. Just - every time I ever get into any sort of debate on Facebook or Twitter, I always regret it. And it's just - it's a waste of time. I mean, it's funny because my dad is Trump, my mom is super Hillary, and they're not together anymore, obviously. But, I mean, all I said to her is I don't think Trump is Hitler, and now she's sending me articles that he's Hitler. And I'm like, I'm not being pro-Trump, I just don't think he's the worst human ever, OK? Which is hardly a compliment to say that. But now I get that, and then I get with my dad - and so it's just - it's just - log off. Don't talk to the family. Watch...

MARTIN: What are you going to talk about - traffic? Weather? What are we going to talk about?

MAHER: No. Comedy, laugh, music, the things that we all agree on. You put a great song on, a Make-America-Great-Again hat and Hillary hat guy are dancing to the same song. Bring that together - comedy, music. Make love, not votes.

MARTIN: OK. What should we go out on then? Since we're going to be - what's on your playlist for election?

MAHER: On my playlist?

MARTIN: What should we play you out on? Yeah.

MAHER: Well, you know, I'm still - I'm not over Prince dying, so that's still...

MARTIN: Way to bring it down, Rob.

MAHER: I'm sorry. I mean, maybe Prince was right. He had to check out before this election.



MARTIN: No, we're not ending on that.

MAHER: All right. What about "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye, because that's really the question that we're asking here - what's going on?

MARTIN: OK. All right. That's Rob Maher. He's a local comedian, funny person trying to make us laugh through this stressful time. You can see him tomorrow on Kevin Hart's new Comedy Central show, "Hart Of The City." He stopped by our studios here in D.C. Rob Maher, thanks so much for joining us.

MAHER: Thanks for having me, Michel.


MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Oh, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) What's going on?

GAYE: (Singing) What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) What's going on?

GAYE: (Singing) Yeah, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) What's going on?

GAYE: (Singing) Oh, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) What's going on?

GAYE: (Vocalizing).

MARTIN: For Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Follow us on Twitter at @npratc or follow me at @nprM-I-C-H-E-L. We are back tomorrow with a special pre-election edition of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. We'll dedicate Sunday's entire hour to a preview of Tuesday's vote. We'll look at how we got here, what's at stake and how the country transitions after Election Day. That's on tomorrow's program. And, of course, tonight, don't forget to set your clocks back an hour for Daylight Saving Time. And we hope you have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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