Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson Punchlines Dominate Bernie Sanders Comedy Benefit

Laugh Factory founder Jamie Masada organized a roster of comedians, including Paul Rodriguez and Harland Williams, on behalf of Artists for Bernie.
Tina Daunt

Donald Trump kicked up another firestorm of controversy on Tuesday when he announced to reporters in Marshalltown, Iowa, that he wouldn't participate in Thursday's Republican debate because of his ongoing feud with Fox News and its anchor Megyn Kelly. 

Just as his campaign bombshell blew through the cornfields surrounding that small Midwestern town, a group of Hollywood comedians rallied together inside the Sunset Strip's iconic Laugh Factory in the name of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Organized by Laugh Factory founder Jamie Masada along with Sanders' creative supporters known as Artists for Bernie, the showcase featured a healthy selection of political jokes and jabs, and, not surprisingly, no candidate provided more fodder than Trump. 

But to be fair, many of the presidential candidates became punchlines of the jokes dished out by a diverse set of comedians (nearly 20 in total), including Paul Rodriguez, Harland Williams, Alonzo Bodden, Maz Jobrani, Steve Hofstetter, Ian Edwards, J. Chris Newberg, Jackie Singer, Chris Redd, Tehran and Jeff Richards. The Laugh Factory hosted two shows for Sanders, one at 5 p.m., which THR attended, and another at 8 p.m. The latter show featured headliners including Sanders supporter Sarah Silverman. Comedian Frazer Smith emceed.

It was Rodriguez who joked that there has been an upside to Trump's questionable campaign rhetoric. "The comedian in me loves Donald Trump," he joked. "If he's not elected, we will run out of things to say." He also questioned why anyone would want to run for president because of how the job has aged those who spend four-year terms in the White House. Obama "came in like Denzel (Washington), and now he looks like Uncle Ben" from the rice box, he said. 

Williams had Sanders supporters laughing when he poked fun at the Vermont senator's hair. "The thing about Bernie is that he's so lovable, like a plush toy," he said. "That fuzzy hair — it's perma-stuck like that ... he's like the Winnie the Pooh of politicians." 

He then turned his attention to Hillary Clinton in a series of jokes that targeted her appearance and attire, specifically "turquoise pantsuits." "We can't have Hillary [as president]," Williams said. "Those cankles alone."

Meanwhile, Trump's fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson got the stand-up treatment from Bodden, who said, "I feel bad, not on behalf of black people, but for brain surgeons. You listen to him for the past year and now I'm like, shit, I might try that."

But Bodden also had words for Trump and the media. "He says shit that's so crazy that a reasonable person can't argue with him," Bodden said. "But I blame the media. How could they let this happen?"

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