We’ve now had a week of this same joke. Countless political operatives, journalists, actors and regular, concerned citizens all made it when President Trump tweeted a doctored video featuring Nickelback’s song “Photograph” on Oct. 2, and again when Twitter took down the meme, citing a potential copyright violation.
That eye-popping, three-figure sales percentage tied to Trump’s missive is misleading, though: No one downloaded “Photograph” during the four days before Trump’s tweet. When the president tweeted the meme Wednesday, the song was downloaded 200 times that day and 300 times on Thursday, according to data from Nielsen Music, which tracks online sales. (For some reason, it was also downloaded 100 times on Sept. 27.)
Nielsen, which also monitors streaming services (but not Twitter), reported that video and audio streams of “Photograph” increased by just 38 percent compared to the two days before Trump’s tweet.
But never mind the details: The narrative of Trump boosting Nickelback was too good to ignore, just like after the president sent out the offending tweet the previous week. “Overhea[r]d: Trump caused Nickelback to trend with a meme,” tweeted actor and activist George Takei. “I consider that an impeachable offense.”
Being accused of liking Nickelback became a common campaign insult years ago. But the “impeachable offense” construction began last week and has shown no signs of going away anytime soon.
Starting with the last presidential campaign cycle — and even after Trump’s victory — conventional wisdom held that Trump would be good for comedy. How couldn’t he be? Sure, late-night comedians had a penchant for making fun of politicians on the right, but the hyper-drive pace of news emanating from a former reality TV star turned unconventional president would have to create the perfect recipe for jokes. After all, when the president of the United States uses a 2005 song from a much-maligned Canadian band to attack a political rival as he faces an impeachment inquiry, it’s now called “a Wednesday.”
We’re now nearly three years into the Trump presidency, so we can survey the results. If political jokes are a biosphere, it does not feel like this moment is a rainforest teeming with various forms of life. Nope. We’re closer to living in a desert with five kinds of weird shrubs to look at.
But that’s not entirely due to a lack of creativity. Social media and particularly Twitter, which is Trump’s preferred form of communication, have given anyone the ability to instantly comment on the latest outrageous news item. Sometimes there are only so many jokes that can be made about the same subject, no matter how outrageous it is. This is why you may hear late-night TV hosts all deliver a variation of the same joke, and why many professional comedians have said Trump is bad for comedy.
“It makes for the same types of jokes all the time,” said Michael Che, “Saturday Night Live” co-head writer and “Weekend Update” co-anchor, in an interview with The Post in 2017. “When you talk about him, you’re pretty much saying the same things about him.”
That goes for nonprofessional joke-slingers, too.