In some ways, it’s never been easier to be a political comedian: the Trump jokes write themselves. In other ways, though, it’s never been harder: amid all the absurdity, the most consequential issues imaginable are at stake. This week, we’re bringing you pieces about the comedians who are helping us to understand and survive the chaos. Emily Nussbaum writes about Samantha Bee’s “slash-and-burn” political satire, and about the off-the-radar brilliance of W. Kamau Bell. Sarah Larson appreciates John Oliver, cable’s king of catharsis, while Doreen St. Félix explores the restrained, barbed humor of Hasan Minhaj, the Muslim comedian who performed at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Ian Parker meets Armando Iannucci, the British creator of “Veep.” Finally, in a piece from 1993, John Lahr profiles the late Bill Hicks, who specialized in “pounding away at the absurdities of American culture with short jabs of wit.” We hope you’ll find some time this Sunday to cheer these comedians on.

—David Remnick


Hive Mind,” by Emily Nussbaum
What feels new about “Full Frontal” is Samantha Bee’s slash-and-burn, slightly gonzo approach to political satire. Although Bee, unlike Billy Eichner, does not literally scream, her show has been fuelled by a chipper, smiling, but barely repressed fury.


Hasan Minhaj’s ‘New Brown America,’ ” by Doreen St. Félix
Hasan Minhaj’s tales of racism can at times feel like service comedy—personal memories excavated for teachability—but his best barbs have enough teeth to rescue his comedy special from earnestness.


Expletives Not Deleted,” by Ian Parker
Armando Iannucci said, of “Veep,” “A lot of the stories in the end are Everyman stories, and if it didn’t happen in the Vice-President’s office it would happen in a shoe shop in Milan. It’s just people trying to get on, and not wanting to be found out.”


Vive John Oliver,” by Sarah Larson
For clarity of expression and comedic effectiveness, John Oliver’s show may be the best and purest show on television—the most useful satire, the highest satisfaction-to-filler ratio of anything we’ve got.


The Goat Boy Rises,” by John Lahr
Elvis Presley was not allowed to be shown from the waist down on TV. Bill Hicks was not allowed to be shown at all. It’s not what’s in Hicks’s pants but what’s in his head that scared the CBS panjandrums. Hicks is no motormouth vulgarian but an exhilarating comic thinker in a renegade class all his own.


Small Wonders,” by Emily Nussbaum
To use a gag-worthy phrase, W. Kamau Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable. That may not sound hilarious, but when it works it grants him new routes into old topics.

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