One of the things that makes satirizing Donald Trump so difficult is that no matter how low the bar for expectations are set, Trump always manages to fall short, repeatedly surprising us with how shallow, crude, and idiotic he actually is. Even when we think he cannot possibly manage to be any stupider, he proves us wrong, over and over and over.
Trump is horribly flawed, to put it lightly, but usually in a predictable way. We know that if you stroke his ego, he'll promise you the greatest things, the best things, things you can only ever imagine, but the best things nonetheless. Call him a small-handed pussy-grabber whose breath reeks of rot and decay, and he'll still be sending you press clippings decades later arguing that his hands are not that small. And you know he'll be dedicating many a lonely hours tweeting ALL of it from his golden toilet. Even when we think he cannot possibly be stupid enough to undermine his own staff who are attempting to cover up whatever latest treasonous BS he's committed through his own ineptitude, he still manages to surprise us by being even dumber than we gave him credit for, but we kind of know it's coming anyway. In these ways, he's completely, utterly predictable. Unfortunately, MAD Magazine's effort at making light of and mocking such shortcomings are equally predictable and tiresome.
Frankly, MAD About Trump: A Brilliant Look at Our Brainless President is not nearly as mean, cruel, derisive, or scathing as Trump deserves. It also doesn't feel particularly fresh, releasing in late June, our 8,976,349th year of Trump's reign. Too much of the magazine's attempts at humor are trite acknowledgments of how Trump actually behaves, and its attempts at caricature are nowhere near as outlandish a Trump himself. When one artist draws the orange buffoon trying to sneak into a pageant contestant's dressing room, we can only sigh with the sad realization that not only is it true, but that Trump-proper was also known for ducking into an underage girl's dressing rooms, as well. It's difficult to make light of his history as a sexual assailant and voyeurism of naked or scantily-clad children.
The biggest problem with this issue of MAD Magazine is that it is utterly soft serve, a little league softball attempt at mockery, but one that is too often completely on the nose. Take for instance the poster about Besty DeVos's purchased cabinet post, or selections of Trump tweets, one of which includes his thoughts on Thanksgiving: "A great day to remember how the Indians welcomed the Pilgrims to America, but NOT Muslims or Syrian refugees. Smart!" Seriously - are we sure he hasn't actually tweeted that (and if he hasn't, can you honestly promise he won't?!). Or, "If you're committing hate crimes in my name, please stop. It's Thanksgiving, for God's sake! You can always pick it back up tomorrow!" Of course, the biggest inaccuracy in any of MAD's tweets from Trump are the lack of misspellings and shoddy grammar. Where this comic should be ripping Trump and his supporters 120 thousand brand new assholes, it instead settles for the obvious and more mundane aspects of Trump's character. Where are comics about the infamous pee tape, or a poster of Trump drenched in urine, fresh off a golden shower and ripe for use in Resistance protests? Where are the checklists of who will be covered under PutinCare and who won't be? (Rich white guys in the GOP: COVERED. Women and minorities: NOT COVERED). Instead, we get several cheap and weak spoofs of The Apprentice. The MAD writers chose simply to opt for the cheap, easy, and sometimes greasy, way out. Just like Trump himself.
There are a few bright spots, though, even if they are really few and far between. The crap-to-quality ratio is decidedly skewed in favor of crap, but occasionally a few gems snuck past the editors here and there. The comparisons between a Trump press conference and a bus station bathroom are on point, and I got a few chuckles out of a one-page segment on the similarities and differences between him and Pope Francis. Trump's new presidential seal, which sees the eagle replaced with the Twitter logo, is pretty clever, as is a quick visual gag of Trump's hair mussed by his KKK hood, and a one-liner about our national anthem being replaced with its Russian counterpart. In fact, the half-page bullet points devoted to the silver linings of Trump's presidency are all pretty funny, and perhaps uncomfortably close to the truth... Another segment worth exploring, particularly in light of Evangelical support for Cheeto Hitler, is Trump vs. The Bible, which pairs Bible quotes against Trumpism, such as Leviticus outlawing incest against Trump talking about banging his daughter, or Proverbs 18:15: "An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge," against Trump's "We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated." Trump's rewritten version of John Lennon's "Imagine" is also pretty remarkable, and maybe even the stand-out segment of the whole issue. I also have to give props to MAD for including a fake diploma from Trump's fake university that allows you fill in your name and frame for hanging. Friends and neighbors wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between this and the phony one! I also got a big laugh out of the similarities between Trump and Burger King's new Mac 'N Cheetos for noting that both look like an Oompa Loompa boner. That's a top-fucking-notch, spot-on observation. Scattered between all this are some movie poster spoofs that are Photoshopped pretty nicely, providing send-ups of Taxi Driver, Captain America: Civil War, and Die Hard. And even all this sounds much better than it actually is... Coming in at 132 pages, this comic is a massive failure, all things considered.
While there are (literally) a couple clever gags and funny punchlines, I found most of the issue pretty humdrum, if not outright basic. I haven't read MAD Magazine in probably a good twenty-five years, but recalling my fondness for it in my youth, I figured if anybody deserved my attention for a Trump takedown, it was this particular title. Maybe I've simply outgrown MAD and its comedic stylings, or maybe Trump is too much of a real-life moronic cartoon villain to properly satirize. Just when you think you can take a comedic razor's edge to the man, he stoops ever lower still, proving that you have, once again, given him far too much credit. And that's the fundamental flaw in this issue - Trump is given far, far, far too much credit. Even when he's getting torn a new one, you know it's only a matter time before MAD's writers look like Nostradamus predicting Trump's next nation-ruining moment, even as pundits declare it to be the moment Donnie-boy really became president. There's a few biting segments worth a look, but the magazine overall is an unremarkable dud, particularly in light of far more scathing late night TV monologues from Stephen Colbert or John Oliver, or even the occasional Twitter account for that matter. Perhaps that's as it should be though. Trump is best known for his late-night twitter rants and celebrity TV shows. If he's to be taken down on any battlefield, it'll be online or on television, not in books he'll have never heard of and won't be bothered to read regardless of how many pretty pictures and illustrations may be inside.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
View all my reviews