Trump Empathy

Why do some people feel more sadness for victims of terrorism in Paris than they do for those in Beirut? Why is seeing pictures of injured people in New York more painful to look at for some than those in Kabul? Why do terrorist attacks in the west get more media coverage than those elsewhere? The answer is to do with empathy, or the lack thereof. Empathy is the basic human ability to emotionally connect to others, to share their pain, to understand their view point. It goes above and beyond sympathy. Mohsin Hamid, a world famous fiction writer from Pakistan, says:

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. – Mohsin Hamid

Empathy helps bind us together in a positive way. When you watch a movie, the reason why some people cry at the death of what is essentially a fictional character, is empathy. Movies make you feel like you have a positive connection of some kind because you now know enough about a character to care whether they live or die. The emotional opposite of this is knowing who the bad guys are, which causes you to have less empathy for them. This is why we weep for the deaths of Mufasa and Bambi’s mum but not for Scar and Shere Khan. In this essence empathy is a kind of social glue:

Empathy is considered by many psychologists to be essential to cooperation, problem-solving, and to human functioning in general. Researchers have described it as “social glue, binding people together and creating harmonious relationships.” Empathetic people are more likely to forgive others for small errors, like running late. Asking narcissists to imagine themselves in others’ shoes can help shrink their big heads. Empathy helps people behave more generously. – Olga Khazan

A key aspect of empathy is listening. If you listen compassionately, openly, honestly, and genuinely to what others are saying, you will hopefully come to understand who they really are and what they really want. You end up validating the other person’s humanity and the pain they may be facing. This does not mean giving sympathy for the devil, being a pushover, or going beyond accepted norms. Case in point is the recent comment made by singer Erykah Badu who said “I see good in everybody, I saw something good in Hitler.” Maybe should have kept that one to yourself Erykah.

Add to this the appearance of Trump (the stupid man’s smart person) in 2016 on a late night chat show with Jimmy Fallon, where Fallon tussled his hair and much hilarity ensued, as did criticism of Fallon for humanizing someone so disliked by so many. Aside from a few obtuse examples such as these, empathy results in a better understanding and humanizing of others.

So what makes us feel more or less empathy? One reason could simply be down to numbers. The more victims of a terror attack, the more sympathy we exude. Other reasons why there could be an empathy gap include geography: the west is seen as more stable than other parts of the world, so an attack in a more stable country like Britain is deemed more shocking than one in a less stable country such as Iraq. Also, media organisations find it easier to get their reporters to New York than to Karachi, hence the distortion in media coverage. Another reason could be familiarity, as explained from an American perspective by David A Graham:

Americans are much more likely to have been to Paris than to Beirut—or to Cairo, or to Nairobi, or to any number of cities that have experienced bloody attacks. If they haven’t traveled to the French capital themselves, they’ve likely seen a hundred movies and TV shows that take place there, and can reel off the names of landmarks. Paris in particular is a symbol of a sort of high culture. Just as a mishap in your hometown hits harder than one two towns over, the average American is likely to relate more closely to violence in Paris than in other parts of the world. There is also a troubling tribal, or racial, component to this familiarity factor as well: People tend to perk up when they see themselves in the victims. – David A Graham

However, many are worried that our society, with its personal brands and Snapchats, is losing the crucial characteristic of empathy. The reasons for this decline are manifold. Way back in 2006 then Senator Barack Obama said Americans should talk more about the “empathy deficit” than the federal deficit. Today in Britain we now have a minister of loneliness to help combat the recognised epidemic of mental health issues. In 2016 the UK reached its highest level of foster care in 30 years, with more than 70,000 children in care. Plus we have the highest number of rough sleepers than ever before, a trend that has been on the increase for over 7 years now. Add to this the fact that we are increasingly more and more submerged in our own digital bubbles, where we rarely read about or listen to viewpoints other than our own.

Every day I read in the news that we are having to deal with increased sexism (hence the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns), racism (white supremacy is on the rise in Russia, Europe, and the States), xenophobia (fear of immigrants and refugees is at its highest across the west), and classism (the working class are being undermined by government at every turn, just look at the victims of the Grenfell tower tragedy in London). And fear of the other seems to be route-one for our politicians on their path to power, exemplified so ruthlessly by the very stable genius Trump. All of this adds to and further causes the lack of empathy we are increasingly surrounded by.

Whilst problems do certainly exist at lower, more personal levels, they also exist at higher levels too. The Doomsday Clock, a metaphorical measure of humankind’s proximity to global catastrophe, was moved 30 seconds ahead. It now sits at two minutes to midnight, which is as close as the world has ever been to the hour of apocalypse. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the Clock a notch closer to the end of humanity on Thursday 25th January 2018, after what the organization called a “grim assessment” of the state of geopolitical affairs. In moving the clock forward the group cited “the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.”

Adding to this doom-and-gloom is a recent article in New Scientist magazine (Issue 3161, 20 Jan 2018) which referred to the crumbling of Western civilisation. It spoke of “cycles of inequality” that have resulted in Western societies becoming “dangerously unequal.”

The West might already be living on borrowed time…However things pan out, almost nobody thinks the outlook for the West is good…If we don’t reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, tackle inequality and find a way to stop elites from squabbling among themselves, things will not end well. – Laura Spinney

Harsh words indeed. All these factors, along with many others, directly or indirectly reduce our levels of empathy, and subsequently reduce the social glue that holds society together. Maybe this is why we are seeing in front our very own eyes the breakdown and fragmentation of our communities.

An area where empathy is most definitely needed is that of Islamophobia. We all know how badly Muslims are portrayed in the media. We all know how hate crimes have increased dramatically (a recent news report states that since Trump came to power the number of anti-Muslim groups has increased three-fold). A better and more realistic understanding of Muslims would help to overturn this ever rising tide of Islamophobia.

So how best to reverse this decline and become more empathetic ourselves, not just towards Muslims but in regards to all of us? One of the most effective and simplest ways is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. In other words, talk to each other, find out more about each other, listen to and learn from each another. Academic research done in this area says similar things, as noted by Jennifer Williams:

There’s a theory in psychology and sociology known as the “contact hypothesis,” which says that prejudice and hatred between different groups — racial, religious, or otherwise — often decreases when the two groups actually have contact with one another. The idea is pretty simple: Once you get to know people from the other group, you begin to see them not as stereotypes or caricatures, but as real people with all sorts of different views. – Jennifer Williams

People who fear Islam, or think negatively about it, should try talking to an actual living, breathing Muslim and you may be pleasantly surprised. You may even experience a miracle:

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? – Henry David Thoreau, from his book Walden

Islam itself has empathy as one of its core principles. Muslims are taught that the entire Muslim population across the world is like one body, so if any one part of that body feels pain then the rest of that body knows about it and should do something to help. A recent example of this are the many Muslims from Britain who have gone to Bangladesh to help Muslim Rohingya refugees, ordinary civilians who are escaping genocide in Burma.

In order to help with this understanding, please find below a handpicked selection of quotes, clips, and links, all to do with actually getting to know the ‘other’ that we fear or think so little about. These examples are of people who are either suggesting or have themselves taken the plunge and spoken to Muslims, all with positive results. Enjoy!

Maz Jobrani is just living his life

The American-Iranian comedian was asked by the magazine Atlantic Monthly in 2016 to comment on Islamophobia and the effect it has on children. Part of what he said was:

I’ve been telling people the best thing you can do is try to make a friend from those backgrounds. Go to a Persian restaurant and eat food there and talk to the people that work there and get to know those people. And you will see that most people in this world are just trying to live their lives, they’re just trying to put food on the table, and make a living and keep their family happy. – Maz Jobrani

A hotel for refugees is a good start

If you cannot or do not want to speak directly to Muslims, at least watch others talking to them. A good place to start is Hotel For Refugees, which is a BBC documentary that was shown late last year. The hotel in question is the Abbeyfield, a former four-star hotel in the small Irish rural community of Ballaghadereen. The Irish government had plans to settle several hundred refugees in the hotel, something which divided the town, with some believing it to be their Catholic duty to extend a charitable hand, and others anxious about the impact of so many strangers on the town. The program ended up showing that over time, and with better understanding, positive relationships started to form between the refugees and the townspeople.

Her week as a Muslim changed her for the better

The Channel 4 documentary My Week As A Muslim was one of the most controversial programs on British TV last year. The program followed white 42 year old Katie Freeman, who now works as a healthcare assistant in the NHS. Katie lives in Winsford, Cheshire, and is frightened of Muslims. So how does she try to overcome this? She ‘brownfaces’ to become a pretend Pakistani Muslim and lives with a Muslim family for a week to see how the other half live. Katie literally takes the ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ mantra one step further by walking a mile in someone else’s face. The whole thing reminded me of a weird reverse White Chicks transformation.

However, once you get past the controversial ‘brownface’ make up and prosthetics applied to a white woman, this is a brilliant documentary that truly does change perceptions in the right way, and it does so right in front of our very own eyes. If you get the chance to see it please do.

Deeyah Khan befriends her enemies


In the ITV documentary White Right: Meeting The Enemy, shown on TV last year, Emmy Award-winning film-maker Deeyah Khan meets US neo-Nazis and white nationalists face to face and attends America’s biggest and most violent far right rally in recent years. The documentary is brilliant as it shows how quickly some of these neo-Nazis change their points of view after meeting Deeyah, for many the first Muslim they have ever really met. In an explanation of why she made the documentary, Deeyah explained as follows, suggesting empathy shown will hopefully be reciprocated (which it was, by more than one person):

What makes me more afraid is how organised, how galvanised the white far right are. They truly believe they are the victims. They feel like they have everything to lose and that’s worth fighting for. I spent my life hounded by men like this and I left liberated from the fear because I realised they’re people who are just as messed up, in pain, broken or struggling as any of us. They just don’t have either the support or means to deal with some of the things they’re dealing with in a healthy way. I absolutely am not asking for people to feel sympathy for these guys – I don’t feel sympathy for them – but that does not exclude my ability to try to empathise with them. Having experienced racism my whole life, I decided that hating them or being afraid wasn’t enough for me anymore. – Deeyah Khan

Empathy begins with familiarity, especially on TV

Just as meeting the right Muslim can change your perception for the better, so can reading the right book, or watching the right drama on TV, or watching the right movie or play. This is a point noted by Mark Honigsbaum who, in asking how we can become more empathetic, gives the following answer:

The most common answer is by fostering greater perspective-taking. Decades of scientific research show that people are kinder to those they view as human beings. The reason is that, when we make the imaginative effort to step into the shoes of another person and see things from their perspective, we become less capable of ignoring their suffering…Novels, television and the internet can also foster greater empathy by exposing us to the perspectives of people whose lives we would not otherwise consider. – Mark Honigsbaum

And here is what you can achieve with the right kind of play:

Plays can create empathy. If you put a Muslim character on stage, and make him a full character, you’re making it possible for the audience to feel empathy, and a little empathy on both sides would help. – Motti Lerner, Israeli playwright and screenwriter

And here is what you can achieve with the right kind of TV drama. The TV channel ITV is currently showing a controversial drama called Next Of Kin, a six-part drama about terrorism that takes place in Britain and Pakistan. It has received fairly good reviews, including the following:

Next of Kin…a brutal family thriller, full of suspicion…Archie Panjabi returned to our screens in a brutal and shocking thriller centring on a Muslim family in London…It was, if nothing else, refreshing to see a Muslim family portrayed so naturally – a gaggle of individuals bound by love, frustrations and jokes and whose normality is as suddenly and thoroughly upended by tragedy as anyone’s could be. – Lucy Mangan

‘They took the hatred out of me’

John Dutcher, a 61-year-old house cleaner in Omaha, Nebraska, has openly admitted that he hates Muslims. “I am one of those guys who would want to put a pig’s head on a mosque.” But all that was before six families of refugees, including from Syria and Afghanistan, moved into his apartment building. They were all Muslim. John then learned about their harrowing stories escaping war-torn countries, and slowly but surely, his feelings about Islam and Muslims warmed. With tears welling up in his eyes he now says “They took the hatred out of me. I never knew how badly somebody could hate someone they don’t even know.” For more details please read the Huffington Post article.

Even George W Bush promoted greater understanding

Do you remember George Dubya Bush, the second worst president ever? Remember when he became president and the world thought it just could not possibly get any worse, at all, in any way, shape, or form? Remember? Anyway, in October 2005 he made some really positive remarks about Islam and Muslims at an iftaar dinner at the White House, especially around the need for greater understanding:

America is fortunate to count such good-hearted men and women among our fellow citizens. We have great respect for the commitment that all Muslims make to faith, family, and education. And Americans of many backgrounds seek to learn more about the rich tradition of Islam. To promote greater understanding between our cultures, I have encouraged American families to travel abroad, to visit with Muslim families. And I have encouraged American families to host exchange students from the Muslim world. I have asked young Americans to study the language and customs of the broader Middle East. And for the first time in our Nation’s history, we have added a Koran to the White House Library. – former president George W Bush

Tommy Tiernan speaks to the right kind of Muslim

The award winning Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan recently spoke to a Muslim on The Tommy Tiernan Show. The resulting interview is both funny and informative and is, for me anyway, a brilliant example of how meeting a Muslim, the right kind of Muslim, can change perceptions (in this case resulting in a hugely positive reaction from Tommy and the audience):

Moeen Ali is a good person to be around

England cricket superstar Moeen Ali on a BBC documentary, England’s Muslim Cricket Stars, spoke about how he hopes to win people over through his actions on and off the cricket field:

There is so much negativity about it, in peoples mind, with the media, etc. For me, as a Muslim to be playing, I am hoping that people look at it and think “Actually, Muslims are not bad people.” Even with my team mates I am sure and I hope that they think that Muslims are good people to be around. There is obviously a minority of people who do commit bad things but that’s in all walks of life I guess. I am hoping that I can inspire other people of all different faiths to not be afraid of practicing whatever they want to practice and still be a cricket player, or a sports player, or whatever it is they want to be. That is essentially my main aim. – Moeen Ali, England cricketer

Jennifer Williams and Arthur Wagner are now Muslims

This is a similar story to that of the American John Dutcher, except this one involves a German who, after spending time with Muslim immigrants, changed his views on Islam and Muslims. Arthur Wagner was a prominent member of the German far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD). The party is known for its virulent anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stance, with its official slogan being “Islam doesn’t belong in Germany.”

Wagner has called his decision to convert to Islam “a private matter” and declined to comment further to the press. But German media reports that the 48-year-old father of two has been spending his free time doing volunteer work with Muslim immigrants, including providing translation help to Chechen immigrants, since he speaks Russian and is of Russian descent. That personal interaction seems to have been the catalyst for his change of heart. For more details please read the excellent article in Vox written by Jennifer Williams, herself a Muslim convert.

Jennifer became interested in Arabic back in college. This later led her to study Arabic abroad in Morocco. Eventually she felt the urge to read the Qur’an for herself and realized Islam answered the questions she had growing up in a Southern Baptist household. Below is a tweet she posted that went viral overnight and resulted in a “whirlwind” of events over the following months.

The British Army brilliantly shows how it’s done

I end this rather lengthy blog post with a brilliant 40 second advert from the British Army that shows how easy it is to show empathy for those different from yourself:



Trump Hole Cap

It is one year to the day since he took office and Trump, who is surely now more punchline than presidential, continues to (and I am paraphrasing the great cartoonist Mr Fish here) dismantle civil society, urinate on international law, stockpile weapons of mass destruction, rob the poor to feed the rich, stoke the flames of racial injustice, seize control of every female private part in the country and claim it as government real estate, continue our collective slide towards doomsday due to his moral degeneracy, and lift every regulation designed to protect the environment against total and complete annihilation.

And let us not even get into the continuing Russia investigation, the allegations of an affair with an adult movie star and the subsequent hush money that was paid out, the ongoing craziness of his tweets, and all of the rest (of which there is sooooo much). Trump is doing all this in a desperate attempt to secure his place in history as the most stable of geniuses.

All of these shenanigans provide great inspiration for comedians, who have a myriad of subject matters and news storylines to play with. As I have probably said before more than once, rather than news channels who clearly have their own agenda, it is these stand up comedians who are in many ways the true voices of reason, a point which the Muslim –American comedian Hasan Minhaj recently noted:

Comedians are playing a more significant role in reporting and commenting on current events. The big thing that a lot of comedians are forced to do is, we’re forced to do things like primary reporting. Like CNN and Fox News, that’s where you go to get your sketch comedy on…It’s like bizarro-world, CNN is Comedy Central and comedians are like, ‘Why aren’t you reporting the truth?’ It’s forced all of us to elevate our game. – Hasan Minhaj

I guess what that means is if you are laughing then you are learning, more than you would if you watched the actual news. In that light, please find below some of the best satirical quotes about Trump that I have recently come across. These quotes may not make you laugh out loud, heck they may even make you wince and shudder as you realise this is what the slow dismantling of western democracy looks like, but at the very least I hope they make you nod in agreement. Enjoy!

NB Please be warned that some of the language below maybe a little offensive.

Trump Norwegians

A lot of people, a lot of agencies, in fact entire cities, are choosing to ignore Trump and just get on with their agenda. And that has been Trump’s biggest achievement. Clinton proved you can be a president without morals. Bush Junior proved you can be a president without an IQ. Obama proved anyone can be president. And Trump has proved we don’t need a president. – Rich Hall

According to Trump everything is so unfair. His favourite word is unfair. He’s the luckiest guy in the world and he’s got this chip on his shoulder. That’s what I don’t understand that his whole attitude is: when will white men born to great wealth finally catch a break in America? – Bill Maher

After Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globe speech many in the public are calling for a run at the presidency in 2020. Can’t we just have a regular one for a while? Just a regular boring old white dude president that smiles and shape shifts into a lizard at night? I’m tired of all these fun ideas for president. I miss boring politics. I miss when people would ask me “Hey, did you hear what the president said?” And I’d be like “No!” – Michael Che

Comparing Trump to Hitler is a bit of a stretch because Hitler managed to get elected without the help of the Russians. – Rich Hall

My job is to make jokes about the news but Trump saying something racist isn’t exactly news anymore. It’d be news if Trump said “You know what we need more of in this country? Haitians!” And by the way, he’s not the only one here that thinks like that. I’ve lived in this country my entire life and I’ve been asked to go back to Africa several times, and it’s never been because they thought I’d enjoy it there. But Donald, you do realize how rich these places are in resources, right? They’re in bad shape because they’ve been robbed and exploited for centuries by Western powers. So the President of the United States calling Africa a “shithole” is like telling a kid you molested “Boy, did you grow up to be weird!” – Michael Che

I look at Trump and the billionaire oligarchs he surrounds himself with as addicts. I do believe they are addicted to wealth, and that wealth addiction is no different from crack addiction. It fills an empty void. They will sell their grandmothers. They’re literally selling our entire country’s health for more. I remember Garry Shandling saying in 2007 that when we put people in office who are addicted to money and power, we might as well be giving a bunch of cokeheads a mountain of cocaine and saying: ‘Divide this equally among your people.’ I see it proven true every day. And we’ve raised an entire generation to worship money at any cost, no matter how it’s made. – Sarah Silverman

If you are what you eat then I guess Trump has eaten a sex offender and about 2 million Wotsits. – Nick Doody

In 2006, only months after Melania has given birth to their son, Trump is sleeping with this porn star, who was also cheating on her boyfriend, and the boyfriend knew because this porn star used to go home with orange on her collar. – Bill Maher

In any other administration, evidence that the president paid hush money to the star of “Good Will Humping” during the election would be a scandal. In this one it has, so far, elicited a collective shrug…Sleeping with a porn star while your wife has a new baby, then paying the porn star to be quiet? That’s what everyone expects of this president. – Michelle Goldberg

In August 2017 Trump began his ongoing verbal war with Kim Jong-Un and that notched the doomsday clock a bit forward. He said he would unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea “the likes of which this world has never seen.” I’m not sure where he first came up with those words “fire and fury,” probably a flavour of Doritos he was eating in bed at the time. – Rich Hall

In March 2017 the Pope himself shot of a series of passive aggressive tweets suggesting that Trump should think about building bridges and not walls. It’s not good when the Pope starts cyber bullying you. The Pope is someone who forgives people when they try to shoot him. How did you manage to get on his bad side? – Rich Hall

In the Chinese calendar 2018 is the year of the shithole. – Bill Maher

It says a lot about where we’re at as a country that in the last few days it was reported that a porn star was paid to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump, and for 38 minutes people in Hawaii thought they were about to get hit with an incoming missile, and neither of those is the biggest story in the news right now. They have of course been overshadowed by the fact that Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shitholes.”– Seth Meyers

Trump Hush

Melania is my favourite member of the Trump family, mainly because she hates Trump. She just married a guy she thought was going to die. – Jena Friedman

Michael Wolff, author of the controversial book Fire And Fury, has done the impossible: he has made America read again. – Bill Maher

People say Trump is dangerous, but it’s a tough call. A lot of people have compared Trump to Hitler but if anything Trump is more like Bin Laden, just in the sense that they both used their daddy’s money to ruin the New York skyline. – Jena Friedman

Sometimes Trump is so stupid that it’s not even funny…Either Trump is lying about the visa lottery or he’s a dumbass who doesn’t know how it works and I really don’t know which one it is. – Trevor Noah

The argument can be made that America is kind of breezing along better than you would expect, and it is. But the ship’s captain doesn’t get to take credit for the weather. – Rich Hall

The fact of the matter is that Trump is just such a dick. When he has finished being president, whenever that is, America is going to say “Me too.” – Larry Wilmore

The only reason we have heard of the book Fire And Fury by Michael Wolff is because of Trump constantly denouncing it on Twitter. It is quite common for people to sell a book by calling it “The book Taylor Swift doesn’t want you to read.” But Taylor Swift doesn’t then tweet to her 86 million followers “This is the book I don’t want you to read!” All you need to do now is insult Trump and you get the sort of publicity that money can’t buy. – Nick Doody

The Republican Mitch McConnell said early on Trump will sign anything we put in front of him. So Trump just becomes for everyone in some way a useful fool. Now the problem with that is he is the useful fool but then he goes wacko and says something which destroys everybody’s plans to use him. – Michael Wolff

The porn star said Trump would only use a condom if Mexico paid for it. She also said that if you have to have sex with a guy like Trump you just shut your eyes and pretend it’s Harvey Weinstein. – Bill Maher

The problem with Trump is that you right a joke at two o’clock and by three o’clock he has negated it by doing something even stupider than what you wrote at two o’clock. – Rich Hall

This is all about personality. It is a cult of personality. His voters like the stuff he is doing. They don’t care when Sarah Huckabee Colonel Sanders comes out and lies to everybody. Trump will say something like “The earth is flat” and she then comes out and says “Nah! That’s the liberal media twisting his words. He said the earth is flat right here. You heard what he said.” – Larry Wilmore

Trump began Martin Luther king Jr day at his golf club in Florida. And what better way to celebrate Martin Luther King than with the whitest thing you can do: golf at a private club that’s named after you. – Seth Meyers

Trump has lived up to one of the promises in his inaugural speech: “I am looking forward to contaminating your every single thought and action. Every waking and sleeping moment of your existence, I will be there. I’m going to be like a weevil, crawling out of an infested egg sack, gnawing away at the pit of your basest fears about the future of America and the world. Trust me folks, it’s going to be tremendous.” – Rich Hall

Trump has praised himself for selling F52 fighter jets to Norway, even though the F52 only exists in the video game Call Of Duty. – Nick Doody

Trump is a narcissistic sociopath who is only interested in feeding his ego. – Larry Wilmore

Trump is now a part of my life, he is like a character in my life, a character who might kill me, but a character nonetheless. – Trevor Noah

Trump is the only human being who can make American Jews want to move back to Germany. – Judy Gold

Trump is the only man ever to pay a porn start to keep her mouth shut. – Bill Maher

Trump said to one journalist that he is “the least racist person you have ever interviewed.” The least racist person you have ever interviewed? Trump having cleverly chosen there an interviewer who had been cryogenically frozen since conducting a last interview in Germany in 1943…We are at the point where this man couldn’t be more racist if his Amazon recommended products were bedsheets, crosses, and fire. – from the BBC TV show The Mash Report, 18 Jan 2018

Trump was in Puerto Rico throwing out rolls of paper towels to people and yelling “There’s a lot of love in this room,” which I believe was a re-enactment of that Moscow hotel room tape that is floating around. – Rich Hall

Trump’s ‘cognitive ability’ normal, he’s just a prick, says White House doctor…Trump has no obvious mental health issues, he is just a dreadful bastard, the White House doctor has confirmed…Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “We have a tendency these days to assume people that we don’t like are somehow mentally impaired, when actually the simplest answer is that they are just turds.” – from, 17 Jan 2018

Trump’s lack of self-awareness is almost adorable. He lies all the time. It’s like listening to OJ Simpson complain about the loopholes in the justice system. – Michael Che

What Trump lacks in eloquence he makes up for by just making up nick names. Like Crooked Hillary, Rocket Man Kim, Sloppy Steve Bannon, Sleepy Eyes Chuck Schumer. The guy has invented more characters than your average Bruce Springsteen lyric. – Rich Hall

When Trump does a speech we never know what he is going to say. No one knows what he is going to do, including himself, which I like. I feel like then we are all in the same place. Trump will be like “Nobody knows. Not even me.” Democrats, Republicans, I don’t care who you are, everyone clenches their butt cheeks when he speaks. Because it could be anything, he could start a war or he could make peace. You don’t know. – Trevor Noah

With any other president having an affair with a porn star would be the end, but with Trump we are all like “Wow! Trump in a consensual affair! I think he’s pivoting.” – Trevor Noah

You want immigration to be merit-based? Your job isn’t even merit-based. Your whole life has been the opposite of merit-based. You’re a celebrity billionaire despite the fact that you’ve declared bankruptcy six times and you’re president despite being wildly unqualified. If you want a merit-based immigration system, fine, but then you should have to go back to whatever bog your family crawled out of and get in the back of the line. – Seth Meyers


Frankie 2017

Well, 2017 has come and it has gone. In some ways it wasn’t too bad a year. There were no nuclear annihilations. Mother Nature, though furious in 2017, has given us a bit more time. And the global economy, even in the era of Trump, is in some ways growing (the rich are getting richer, as they always do, which is why stock markets are breaking record after record, and the poor are getting poorer, as they always do, which is why global debt hit an all-time high of over $233 trillion). But not everyone saw it like that.

Here is cartoonist Tom Tomorrow with his review of 2017…

Tom 2017

And here we have Time magazine symbolising 2017 with this caricature of Trump with his hair on fire…

Time 2017

In a rather scathing and brilliant article about some of the main characters populating the news, the Guardian columnist Stuart Jeffries says 2017 was the year we reached “peak arsehole”. Jeffries goes on to say:

What this implies is that 2017 is the year of the asshole. And a brief survey of the self-serving, overwhelmingly patriarchal, sometimes sexually exploitative and otherwise loathsome public stances taken by the year’s most prominent jerks – among them Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Kevin Spacey – suggests this to be the case. – Stuart Jeffries

A more detailed and hilarious review of 2017 was provided by Andy Zaltzman, again in the Guardian. In the article, How To Laugh At The Year That Was, Zaltzman said:

From Trump to Brexit, 2017 has been both a gift and a curse for comedians…As the first year in history in which the most powerful person in the world has been an internet troll with access to a Twitter account, 2017 has been even more newsically unrelenting than its predecessor, role model and inspiration, 2016…Satire, therefore, has had a busy year. – Andy Zaltzman

And here we have cartoonist Mr Fish on the troublesome cross over from 2017 to 2018…

Fish 2017

Whatever people think of 2017, one thing is for sure. It was a big year for comedy. In fact, 2017 was a monumental year for stand-up comedy, with the “comedy bubble” showing no signs of bursting any time soon. Here are just a few examples: Dave Chappelle was given $60 million by Netflix for 3 stand up specials, comedy show Saturday Night Live had it highest ratings in decades, Larry David and his show Curb Your Enthusiasm were back, Tiffany Haddish burst on to the scene, once former comedy giant Louis CK burst his bubble through no fault but his own, and those stand-up comedians not caught up in sexual harassment allegations became the moral voice for many of us, especially in the States with late night chat show hosts like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Jim Jeffries, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Jordan Klepper, and Conan O’Brien.

Add to this a huge number of stand-up specials, including gigs from Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, and Netflix specials from Muslim comedians Hasan Minhaj (Homecoming King) and Maz Jobrani (Immigrant), to name just a few. This glut was fuelled mainly by Netflix releasing a new hour-long stand-up special every week throughout the year. HBO, Comedy Central, Showtime and other American networks also continued to release new specials throughout 2017. Because there were so many of these specials some journalists found it difficult to choose a year-end list of the best. One such journalist was Garrett Martin who, writing in Paste magazine, said:

There are more people doing comedy in more venues and through more media outlets than ever before…in the past it was pretty easy to watch every major special that aired; in 2017, that would require a real commitment…Last year our year-end list had 10 stand-up specials; this year we had to cut it down just to get to 25. All of them are worth watching if you’re a fan of stand-up, and illustrate how wide-ranging and diverse this kind of entertainment has become. – Garrett Martin

But which one was the best? Well, according to Brian Logan of the Guardian, Frankie Boyle’s show Prometheus Volume 1 (performed at the EICC in Edinburgh) was the best. My take on this remarkable show can be found here. And this was Logan’s gleaming year end review:

For dark times, do we need dark comedy? Maybe, maybe not, but if you put a gun to my head (very much the apt figure of speech), I’d have to cite Frankie Boyle’s Prometheus Volume 1 as the funniest comedy show I saw this year. I tried to resist it. I listened to the angel at my shoulder, reminding me how much I enjoyed fun-lovers such as Spencer Jones and mild-mannered wags like Phil Wang. But in comedy as in music, sometimes the devil gets the best tunes. And this year, in his familiar guise as a beardie Glaswegian with middle-aged spread and a husk for a heart, Boyle had some crackers.

Depending on what you’re looking for, a lot and a little has changed since the shows with which Boyle began his standup career. He still aims to appal as much as amuse. If you think there are subjects from which comedy should shrink (sexual assault, to cite an obvious example), this wasn’t the show for you. But whereas shock and horror were once the means and the end of Boyle’s shtick, and were cheaply spent on snide gags about celebrities, now all the brutal quips about Tories, slaughtered Arabs and succubus Windsors are there in the service of a radical worldview. Radically cynical, maybe. Radically morbid. But radical nonetheless.

His comedy probably isn’t going to save us, of course. But at least, as the waters finally close over our benighted civilisation, Boyle’s cackling barbs ringing in our ears, we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. In the meantime, well, the jokes are just so funny: pithily expressed, baroque of imagination, each one landing like a sharp jab at whatever nerve you’ve left unprotected. In a year when many of us felt like grabbing strangers by the lapels and screaming, “What’s happening to us?!”, Boyle’s comedy came closest to distilling that feeling into joke form.

 – Brian Logan, 17 Dec 2017, Guardian, from the article The Top 10 Comedy Shows Of 2017

When Boyle was given the task to do a year end show he said:

I’m so delighted to be doing this show as that little period between Christmas and New Year is something that I’ve always wanted to ruin for everybody. – Frankie Boyle

A little later, in a teaser clip advertising the show, Boyle described 2017 thusly:

2017. A year of contrasts. Some of it was terrible, as was all the rest of it. So not much of a contrast really. Join me and my guests as we look back on a year of contrasts. – Frankie Boyle

So who better to review the year 2017 than one of the best and darkest comedians currently doing the rounds, the always original Frankie Boyle. As usual I have chosen my favourite quotes from the show, transcribed below. And please be warned, some of the language may be a little offensive, but I hope that does not detract from you enjoying these quotes. Also, the quotes are from Frankie Boyle unless otherwise stated. Enjoy!

NB I have blogged about Boyle’s New World Order shows before, but this particular one is a year-end review.

Theresa May looks crushed, doesn’t she? Her body language is amazing. I didn’t realise it was possible to limp with both legs.

It’s been a year of sexual assault allegations. Harvey Weinstein checked himself into rehab on a ranch. I think the last thing this world needs is Harvey Weinstein learning how to use a lasso. “Harvey! Harvey! That’s not how you mount a horse!”

Kevin Spacey really went for it, didn’t he? Imagine at this point in history, being adjudged such a sex predator that you’re not allowed to play the President of the United States.

It amazes me, really, that Donald Trump hasn’t been assassinated. Especially when you consider quite a lot of his security are concentrating on stopping Melania from making a break for it.

Trump’s loved by the Klu Klux Klan and by evangelical Christians. Which is strange because he’s the perfect argument both against white supremacy and for abortion.

We had Brexit, led by the least among us, Boris Johnson, a sort of malevolent baked Alaska, and David Davis, a man who seems to suffer from the same lack of imagination as his parents.

This year Britain was the number three exporter of aid to Yemen. There’s a famine in the Yemen. And at the same time, the number two seller of arms to Saudi Arabia, who are causing the famine in Yemen. That’s like shooting someone in the face, then spooning porridge into the cavity.

Tonight I’ll be making a proposition that sums up my view of the year, and that proposition is…2017 is the year no-one will look back on fondly because we’ll all be dead.

This year, one figure dominated the news more than any other…Donald Trump. He may have to shit by Cesarean, but he’s still the most powerful man in the world. This year, he announced US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, championed tax cuts for billionaires, and supported an alleged pedophile as a Republican candidate for the Senate. Trump is like a fat bee bashing around inside a greenhouse, repeatedly failing to understand why the world doesn’t work as he thought it did. Like any good authoritarian, a lot of his hatreds are simply projection. He has targeted North Korea for threatening its neighbour to the south, promising to expand its nuclear capability, and assassinating people abroad. Despite the fact this was pretty much Trump’s election manifesto.

I don’t know if you know, but Trump’s brother died from alcoholism, so Trump avoids alcohol because his brother was an alcoholic. If only his brother had died from being a massive cunt.

Sara Pascoe: Trump doesn’t worry me anymore. You know that thing about how once you see how sausages are made, you don’t want to eat sausages? Politically, he’s showing us how the sausages are made. Politics has always been poisonous and toxic and awful, and they’ve always had nuclear buttons and they’ve always been pigs. Now you can see it. Now we all know.
Mona Chalabi: But the thing is, it’s not affecting his popularity.
Sara Pascoe: People like sausages. That’s the problem.

Do people worry that Trump is a Russian mole? I mean, it would certainly explain why he can’t speak English.

Miles Jupp: I find him amazing to watch. Just that level of sort of rage. I think a lot of it’s to do with his diet, probably. He only eats fast-food. He’s basically full all the time of salt and sugar. So any behaviour you see is a direct symptom of that. Like a child that’s had too much jelly he gets very, very high and then he has these sort of miserable crashes. And then he presumably consumes no roughage…whatsoever, which is why most of his real fury is reserved for when he’s on the lavatory. Tweeting. He’s tweeting there. He’s angry, he’s lonely. I shouldn’t imagine he’s the sort of person that has books in his loo. The only thing he’s got to do is read about himself on the internet and then get angry and then let it all out.

Katherine Ryan: Trump’s a dangerous man. If you tell him he can’t do something, he’ll do it. I think men like Trump should be told, you know, you can’t make a woman your age climax. You can’t do it. And then they’ll just spend their whole lives trying. “You can’t tell me I can’t make a woman my own age climax.” And then they’ll have to spend time around women with educations and opinions. And then it might solve things a little.

Trump moves like a sort of walrus on a Segway or something.

Black Americans are near the top of Trump’s list of adversaries. Somewhere in-between Muslims and common decency. But Trump’s nemesis this year has been North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea have developed nuclear warheads. But basically, at the moment, their delivery system is £3 million worth of stamps. And they’re trying to say that, oh, eventually, they’re going to be able to hit LA which means we’ll lose, what, James Corden and half-a-million rapists?

Many of us thought that Donald Trump would walk away with the title of the Worst Person Of The Year, but we were forgetting about one man…Piers Morgan.

Meanwhile, the news in Britain was dominated by Brexit. In March, Article 50 was triggered, leading to fractious Brexit negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU. The prospect of Brexit has already managed to get immigration down and exports up…by making the pound worthless. At the moment, Britain is in a strange position, where we seem to be sanguine about foreigners owning our infrastructure, we just don’t want them picking our fruit.

They are becoming increasingly divorced from the general public, the Tories, I think. The average Cabinet Minister, the only reason that he keeps a photo of his kid in his wallet is so that he doesn’t pick up the wrong one at the end of term.

Jeremy Corbyn is often criticised for his scruffy appearance, so he was a surprising choice for the cover of GQ magazine…I’ve always kind of hated GQ. It seems to me to be just a watch catalogue. Do you know that thing, those guys that are like, “I used to just be a prick, now I’m a prick in four different time zones. I’ve gone from being a prick to a highly-muggable prick.”

There’s a theme throughout the general election of a growing disconnect between the Conservative Party and the public. They’re almost going in opposite directions. One of the new figures is Jacob Rees-Mogg, a sort of living Monopoly logo. A composite drawn from the nightmares of 18th-century mill workers…I think we sort of underestimate him, because subconsciously, we all think, any minute now, he’s about to be arrested by Poirot.

In October, Hollywood and the entertainment industry were rocked by multiple allegations of sexual harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein. This led to a cascade of people coming forward with more accusations against big stars like Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and Dustin Hoffman. Time magazine named the victims who’d spoken out about sexual misconduct, the Silence Breakers, as their people of the year. And then ruined it by making Donald Trump runner-up, like he was chasing them.

Katherine Ryan: When the Bill Cosby stuff happened, the reason he looked so confused going into the courtroom is his whole attitude was, “Well, no, all my friends were raping people, I don’t really understand. Back then, it was just frowned upon, like smoking weed. But now you’ve transported me into this whole world where it’s unacceptable.” It’s like society’s moving more quickly than these men are.
Sara Pascoe: At the beginning of Weinstein’s apology speech it literally says, “It was different back then,” that rules have changed. As if someone else has moved the goalposts. And again, he’s accused of rape at the most serious end of the assaults and things he’s been accused of. Literally saying to everyone else, “You’ve changed the rules.” Which is different from saying, I’ve done something utterly wrong, or lots of things wrong.
Mona Chalabi: I also think the thing that’s really scary is the first allegation against Weinstein was 37 years ago. The timeline it’s taken for these things to pick up speed is really depressing.

Frankie Boyle: The thing is, I worry though, will it change? This might all just go away because the institutions don’t seem to be changing.
Mona Chalabi: I think one of the things that’s frustrated me is that it’s just been high-profile, celebrity men. And we know that most reports of sexual harassment and stuff, they’re in things like retail, accommodation. So, like, hotel workers, those women are an in incredibly vulnerable positions, and things like manufacturing. But, in three out of four of those cases, the women are threatened with retaliation if they keep on moving it forward. Like, seven out of ten cases just never, ever go reported. So we’re only seeing the very, very tip of the iceberg here.
Frankie Boyle: What I don’t see in it though is, where is the idea of justice in this? So, these people haven’t been charged with anything, there’s not real justice for the victims. Basically, at the moment, we’re allowing them to set the agenda, where they go, “I’m going away for two weeks to a hotel.” That’s not how crime works. You know? “I’m going to try and not do any more armed robberies, I’ve got a week in at the Hilton, hopefully going to turn over a new leaf.”
Sara Pascoe: I think that, especially, with Harvey Weinstein, I think it isn’t a rehab thing, I think the crimes he’s been accused of are very, very serious. And Kevin Spacey as well.
Frankie Boyle: Are they on the same ranch? Surround this fucking ranch. Wait until Woody Allen pops round for a game of ping-pong and surround the thing like fucking Waco.
Miles Jupp: It’s basically like a safe house. I mean…it’s a place for perverts to hang out together.

Katherine Ryan: I’m blown away by how many men are outraged that they should have to mediate their behaviour so that the few women in their office can feel safe. Safe! It’s just safe, we don’t want to feel powerful, we don’t want to abuse you. “What, and now I’ve got to stop hugging them? What, the way I look at women’s got to change?” If the way you LOOK at women has got to change, what sexual eyes are you giving them?

I stayed across from Trump Tower for a wee bit and I’d forgotten just how blasé Americans are about guns, because he was president by then, it’s just surrounded by snipers and soldiers and stuff. And this woman walked up to a group of, like, ten soldiers and went, “Is there a Starbucks up there?” The guy gestured with a sniper rifle, “Yeah, it’s up there.”

So, as the year drew to a close, and everybody got ready for Christmas, high-street baking chain Greggs released an advent calendar. It featured this profoundly misguided image of three wise men surrounding baby Jesus, who was replaced with a sausage roll. See, I think they’ve gone too offensive there. Because how they going to top that next year? It’s going to have to be a sausage roll flying into the second tower. Like, Princess Diana’s car being forced off the road by a steak bake.


Guz Apollo.jpg

As far as Muslim stand-up comedians go America has some big hitters, with the likes of Hasan Minhaj, Maz Jobrani, Azhar Usman, Dave Chappelle, Preacher Moss, Aasif Mandvi, Aziz Ansari, and many others. Britain also has its fair share of up and coming Muslim comedians such as Tez Ilyas, Imran Yusuf, Aatif Nawaz, Prince Abdi, Shazia Mirza, Adil Ray (aka Citizen Khan), Humza Arshad (aka Diary Of A Bad Man), Ahir Shah (who was recently featured in the Guardian), and again many others.

Another name to add to this British list is that of Ghulam Khan, better known as Guz Khan, Guzzy Bear, or Mobeen (a comedy character he sometimes plays who is a somewhat typical Muslim living in Small Heath, Birmingham). Khan really came to prominence in June 2015 when, whilst performing as Mobeen, he made a video expressing mock outrage at the apparent use of the racial slur “Paki” (short for “Pakistani”) in the 2015 film Jurassic World. He called for a boycott of the film when one of the lead characters Vivian, played by Lauren Lapkus, shouted “the Pachys are out of containment” (the Pachys in this case being dinosaurs of the type pachycephalosaurus).

In the video Khan recounts a recent awkward trip he and his friend took to the cinema to watch the film. He also raised the point that the phrase could sound exceptionally racist to the untrained ear. Unexpectedly the video went viral. Within six days it was watched over 340,000 times on YouTube and over 700,000 times on Facebook. After the newspaper the Birmingham Mail publicised the story Khan was interviewed by radio stations as far and wide as the United States and Indonesia. Here’s the video in full:

More recently Khan has created a four-part television series called Man Like Mobeen for the BBC. It was released on BBC iPlayer in December 2017. Such is his popularity that the series is scheduled to make its terrestrial TV debut this weekend, straight after the football show Match Of The Day on Sunday evening.

In the series Khan again plays the role of Mobeen, the 28-year-old Muslim from Birmingham “who has a job, doesn’t know any terrorists, is pretty excellent when it comes to social skills and…maybe, just maybe, dealt drugs for a little bit.” He goes on to say that “Mobeen epitomises the funny yet complex realities of life for young working class men and women in Britain today. Inner-city Birmingham, in which the show is set, gets almost no positive representation in the media. Man Like Mobeen will at the very least give a ‘real’ depiction of life in the ends.” I have yet to see these four episodes, so no doubt I will be talking about them at a later date.

Also, on the last day of last year, the BBC aired the stand-up comedy programme Live At The Apollo. Performed at the Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in west London, this particular episode of the show (series 13, episode 5) saw Guz performing alongside fellow comedians Henning Wehn and Lucy Porter. The performance most definitely marks Khan’s arrival in the British mainstream comedy scene. Below is the performance, along with some of the transcript. Enjoy!

Let’s, ugh…Let’s lighten the mood a little bit. Let’s talk about terrorism. Terrorism…


Listen, one of my main issues with terrorism is simple, right. It’s got people that have known me my entire life doubting my credibility, all right? It’s a mad thing…And I will let you know, all right, you guys are a little bit worried at the moment. I’ll make it explicit for you. I am not a member of Isis, all right? I’m not, OK? I’ve nothing to do with those people, I don’t follow their ideology. That’s cos I’ve got six months left on my Al-Qaeda membership. I’m loyal…


Where did they go!? My gosh!

One of the worst things about terrorism is how it’s got people doubting my credibility, people I’ve known my whole life, all right? I want to give you an example. I’ve got a neighbour, OK? She’s called Maud, she’s known me for 27 years. And because of the media narrative, the way that the media portrays Muslims, minorities, Black Lives Matter…the world is very divisive. Who in this room just wants to live and get along? Make some noise.


Exactly, we all want to, all right? But the media has got people doubting me, all right? So, I’ve had my neighbour 27 years, we’ve got a…It’s a nice, simple thing, it’s a neighbourly thing to do, all right? A regular Friday wheelie bin ritual. We grab the wheelie bin, drag it down to the end of the driveway, have a quick natter, go back in. It’s what neighbours do, innit? It’s what neighbours do, all right?

This particular Friday, Maud is like clockwork, but she was late. And I’m thinking, “Is Maud OK? I hope she’s all right, usually she’s like…”

The bin was stinking of shit but I thought, “You know what, I’m going to stay here, I’m going to be a good neighbour and have this conversation.”

Three minutes later, boom! She kicks open the door, she’s stressed, she’s flustered. I said, “Maud, is everything OK?”

She says, “No! No, Guz, everything is far from all right. Have you seen the news?”

I’m like, “Listen, Maud, a lot of my cousins are on there, I don’t watch that shit, you know that…It brings back a lot of bad memories for me, Maud.”

She says, “Guz, it’s the Izis.”

I-Z-I, she’s from Birmingham, that’s how she spells it. “It’s the Izis. They’ve been doing terrible bloody terrorisms again, them lot.”

I was like, “Listen, that’s bad, I don’t agree with those people and, you know, I hope they’re brought to justice.”

She says, “You say that, Guzzy, yeah, but you’ve got to tell me something, babes. You’re nothing like them, are you?”

I said, “What? Maud, you’ve known me 27 years, baby, I’m nothing like them, stop buying into the media narrative, stop buying into the news, I’m me, Guz, your neighbour.”

She says, “I know, I know you say that, it’s just that from very specific angles…”


“…it’s a very Bin Laden look you’ve got going on there.”

I said, “Hey! I don’t even look like that guy. Very racist!”

She says, “Guz, I know, I’m just being silly, I’m just being silly, but you just do me one more favour, though, babes, OK? It’s just more for my Rod, really, yeah? If you hear anything about it before the news does, just let me know.”


Live At The Apollo, what does Maud think is going on here? That all Muslims are in one WhatsApp group? Because, blud…that’s a very big WhatsApp group! That’s 1.8 billion participants, to be specific. That’s a lot of blue ticks to keep hold of.

“Imran, Imran are you there, bro?”

Which Imran am I addressing? There’s 33 million Imrans in the group!


Guys, I’m out. My name’s Guz Khan.


Thank you. You lot need to…I’m a confident guy, I’m a confident guy, you need to remember the name, guys, cos I’m going to blow up. Not like that, you pricks. Say Guz Khan, thank you!


 – Guz Khan, from the BBC comedy show Live At The Apollo