'Beaverton' producers: Good Trump jokes are hard to write
In this Feb. 23, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks out onto the crowd during a rally in Reno, Nev. (Marcio Jose Sanchez, File/AP Photo)
TORONTO -- The new Canadian comedy series "The Beaverton" had two episodes ready to air for its premiere on Wednesday, one night after the U.S. presidential election.
One five-minute opening segment was prepared in case Hillary Clinton won and another was prepped in case -- as the warm-up comedian expressed it -- "it's the apocalypse."
Donald Trump's surprise victory meant the audience for The Comedy Network's new satire missed seeing a routine that described Clinton as "America's first openly-female president."
For "The Beaverton" and established topical comedy shows such as "Real Time with Bill Maher," "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," is Trump's presidency a gift or a joke?
"I don't think anyone has nailed Trump yet from a satirical point of view," says "Beaverton" co-executive producer Luke Gordon Field. He feels "Saturday Night Live" has done a good job parodying Trump, but "they still haven't come up with a very strong satirical take."
Field is the head writer/editor-in-chief of TheBeaverton.com, the "Onion"-like satirical website that inspired the series. He's also a lawyer who grew up a big fan of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Co-executive producer Jeff Detsky says the website provided "a blueprint for what the voice was" on the Toronto-based TV series.
The pilot episode saw Alberta Premier Rachel Notley the target of some ribbing, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There was also a joke about Don Cherry's new fashion line for women, and, not a wall, but "a Walmart spanning the entire Canadian border."
Detsky, a comedy writer who worked on "Call Me Fitz" and "Seed," agrees that Trump is actually a tough target.
"Having a satirical take on Trump is tough beyond just pointing out the absurdities of Trump."
Viewers who watched CBC News Network's election night coverage with Peter Mansbridge, for example, saw "22 Minutes" comedian Mark Critch struggle to provide comedy relief throughout the long night. As Trump's victory became more and more apparent, things seemed to get less funny.
Field says TheBeaverton.com ran into a similar problem when Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto.
"We did multiple articles suggesting the Rob Ford soap opera had gone off the rails. It's a fun angle to take when the news gets so absurd you can't out absurd it."
Canada has had a proud tradition of news satire, dating back to sketches by The Royal Canadian Air Farce, the Earl Camembert/Floyd Robertson reports on "SCTV," as well as the long-running CBC comedies "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" and "The Mercer Report."
Emma Hunter, one of the hosts of "The Beaverton," has been on "22 Minutes" as well as "Air Farce" (she'll be back for Farce's upcoming New Year's Eve special, along with "Beaverton" correspondent Aisha Alfa). She says she's a big fan of Samantha Bee.
"She's wonderful for so many reasons, for Canada, for women, for comedy."
Hunter feels "The Beaverton" will be a little younger and edgier than what has come before it in Canada.
"It's blue and edgy and distinctly progressive," she says. "The people who are the butt of our jokes are racists and homophobes. It's glorious to be a part of something like this."