The problem with turning Donald Trump into a cartoon is that he already is one. A very scary, dangerous, real life cartoon. It’s beyond easy to laugh at the real guy, but there’s a good amount of shame in doing so, both because he’s such an easy target and because what he says and campaigns on is so awful. That’s a larger theme hanging over this entire election, one that the thriving political-comedy complex has had to navigate gingerly. Colbert may no longer be the cream of that crop since moving to CBS, but he’s still capable of trenchant commentary and segments as biting as anything that would’ve aired on The Colbert Report.
This video is not one of those segments. It looks like Cartoon Trump will be a recurring bit on The Late Show, in the tradition of the Clutch Cargo-fied Bill Clinton that probably still pops up on Conan O’Brien’s show today. And although there are some good lines and smart observations here, the overall concept is pretty unfulfilling. Again, it’s too easy of a target, the jokes too tame considering the inexhaustible ugliness of the man himself, and the whole cartoon gimmick feels a little too desperate for viral attention. The beginning of the video, where Colbert points out Trump’s increasing unfavorability ratings, his unlikeliness of winning tomorrow in Wisconsin, and his campaign’s disingenuous spinning of the poll numbers, is a strong start to a classic Colbert segment. Too bad about that cartoon business that follows it up, then.
And if you want to see a cartoon figure mishandle math, Scott Steiner remains the gold standard.