New York TV Festival: Network Execs Talk Comedy in the Trump Era

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - H 2017
Courtesy of Comedy Central

Men and women from Fox, TruTV, Comedy Central and IFC participated in the panel discussion.

The New York TV Festival brought together network executives on Tuesday to discuss diversity behind and in front of the camera, international viewership and comedy in the age of President Donald Trump.

The powerful men and women assembled for the State of TV Comedy panel included Fox's senior vp, comedy development and programming Jonathan GabaytruTV's senior vp, development and original programming Angel Annussek; Comedy Central's executive vp talent and development — East Coast Sarah BabineauIFC's senior vp, original programming Christine Lubrano; and moderator Andrew Barnsley, president of comedy production company Project 10.

Without mentioning the president by name, excluding the one slip from Babineau, the group was asked to discuss the impact that "domestic politics" has had on their jobs and how the Trump administration has changed the way they go about the production and development of certain shows or episodes.

"I mean, it has completely transformed my world at Comedy Central," Babineau said, citing improved ratings for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah since the show's fall 2015 debut.

The interest in Noah's political satire along with the tension in the political climate also has inspired three other Comedy Central shows: The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, The Jim Jeffries Show and The President Show.

IFC's Lubrano, meanwhile, talked about how Portlandia took a different, more indirect take on the current administration with its episode, "What About Men?", which satirically focused on men's rights.

"It was a song about how horribly men are treated and how totally left behind they are," Lubrano said. "That was sort of a snarky, cheeky way of indirectly responding to the current climate."

For Fox, Gabay said that instead of focusing on shows inspired by the current administration, the network is trying to appeal to viewers in middle America. 

"One of the things that we talked about a lot was making sure that the stuff that we picked up were inclusive of the people in the middle," Gabay said. "We never felt like we were pushing any specific agenda, but veering towards those very specific, niche kind of shows might be rejected the middle of the country."

The panel also discussed whether or not comedy has a responsibility to highlight and discuss of all the topics that occur during a packed news cycle. They all unanimously agreed that it doesn't.

"I don't believe that comedy has any responsibility to do that," Lubrano said. "But if it is going to do that, do it responsibly."

The executives also talked about the social advocacy and political stances that shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Live! have taken.

"I think the people who decide they want to take on the responsibility do have a responsibility," Gabay said. "For them to have that is a big burden and it has to be done well."