Ed Helms' Comedy Central Special Satirizes Trump's "Fake News"

The Fake News with Ted Nelms - Screenshot - H 2017

In a one-hour segment titled 'The Fake News with Ted Nelms,' the actor reported on President Trump being stuck in a well and Senator Bill Cassidy attempting to eat an entire cow.

Ed Helms took shots at the preponderance of "fake news" accusations on Wednesday night with his hourlong Comedy Central special The Fake News with Ted Nelms

The special took a satirical look at the news, with false and often preposterous news stories being read onscreen by Helms' fake journalist alter ego, Ted Nelms. Helms, although known of late for his roles in films such as ChappaquiddickVacation and The Hangover series and for TV shows such as The Office and The Muppets, also worked for Comedy Central's The Daily Show in the early 2000s as a correspondent. 

President Trump has frequently lamented "fake news" portrayals of him and his administration, giving rise to the popularity of the term. The Fake News made a joke of the term's modern omnipresence, noting in a promotional segment, "Only one news organization is the talk of America."

The newscast's main stories for the night were "Hurricane Randy," a Category Five storm approaching Florida; a story about President Trump falling into a well and being stuck there for seven days; and an "exclusive" with Senator Bill Cassidy on his attempt to eat an entire cow. "I'm disappointed for myself," Cassidy said in a soundbite taken out of context and aired over footage of Cassidy and a brown cow.

The broadcast's main story was an imagined farce envisioning that Trump had fallen into an abandoned well in a remote part of the White House grounds seven days prior to the broadcast. In one recap of the story, a reporter in Washington, D.C. recounted that the White House's initial official statement was that Trump was vacationing on his private island and "hunting other humans for sport" and that Trump had initially boasted on Twitter about no one ever falling into a well so deep before. But after groundsmen could not find a rope long enough to save the president, the president tweeted mixed messages, prompting national concern.

Though the subject of the special was fake news, the White House's "response" to a dire situation was familiar. Helms brought Mike Pence onto the imagined program in one segment to comment on the matter, in which he reassured the newscaster that Trump being stuck in the well "does not impede his ability to lead." Helms reported that Trump's approval ratings have risen since the well incident and that other Republicans since followed suit.

Another memorable moment in Comedy Central's special was one reporter's perilous journey into "Hurricane Randy." Goaded into traveling to a remote island to report on the storm by Helms, reporter "Mark Telfer" got close enough to the storm to be swept away by it. Helms started a weepy obituary segment, but not before Telfer returns to the broadcast, having clung to a rock for life.

While the special teased Trump quite a bit with fake stories and a fake "pre-well interview" with the president, its targets were a bipartisan bunch. In one segment, Helms reported that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was "shocked" to learn of the significant number of venture capitalists in the State Department; in a soundbite that follows, Clinton said she wished there were more. In another moment, Helms reported before he revealed the identity of a mass shooter that one liberal group was hoping that the suspect was white, male and heterosexual.

The one-time special also advertised fake news stories in subsequent editions of the broadcast, including a panel on sexual harassment staffed by old white men reminiscing about how sexual harassment used to be in the workplace, and an all-white, all-female panel on what it means to be black in America.

The special ended with a report on the progress of rescuing Trump from the well. In sloppily doctored footage that resembles a pivotal scene in the 2002 Gore Verbinski-directed horror film The Ring, a troll emerged from the well with long hair and a Trump-like face.

The one-hour broadcast, whose head writer is The Daily Show's Elliott Kalan, sought to put "fake news" accusations into context by showing how such reports would play out literally. 

"It's not news that you don't like that you call fake news, it's actual fake news," Helms told Conan O'Brien on Conan on Tuesday night. "We're using [the name] the way it should be used."