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Does Anyone Actually Want an Apolitical Talk Show Right Now?

T.J. Miller, whom you probably know as Erlich from Silicon Valley, or as Robbie on Gravity Falls, is bringing Funny or Die’s The Gorburger Show to Comedy Central as a full-series late night talk show. Gorburger is an interesting concept, with the titular alien taking over a Japanese variety show. Miller voices a giant blue alien puppet, which looks like something straight out of Jim Henson’s brain. And as Miller has been repeating in interviews, the show is full of musical collaborations that can’t be heard anywhere else. Original music and professional puppetry? There’s a lot here to be excited about.

But in all those interviews Miller’s doing right now, he also makes a point to stress that this show will be “apolitical.” And I can’t help but wonder … why? Why would we want an apolitical talk show?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with totally apolitical distraction entertainment. (I myself have had The Great British Bake Off playing on a loop in the background of my apartment for about two weeks.) But a talk show, by its very design, is topical.

Miller, though, makes it clear he wants a talk show that exists outside of current politics. He told Uproxx,

I figured, especially right now, we need something apolitical on TV. As in, an apolitical talk show where you can ask people not about their political views, but about being a human being. About being an American, but not with a political bent. We look to and hope that that will be a component of the show. That’s the main thing, because I consider myself to be apolitical. I really am. I don’t care enough about this shit.

He also asked The Guardian,

Do you remember what the faces on people looked like right after the election? Do you remember how terrible they looked when they walked outside? Do you remember what it was like to be part of that America?

I do remember what that was like, because I, like so many others, still live in that America. Most of us don’t feel we even have the option to not care about this shit. We wouldn’t know how to talk about “being an American” without at least some sort of political bent. That doesn’t necessarily mean being reactionary or even talking about partisan political parties. But politics is a part of our lives in a way younger generations, especially, have never felt.

When it comes to talk shows, to talking about “about being a human being,” Miller might be in the minority in wanting, or being able to eschew politics. Since the election, Stephen Colbert (who has re-found his political bite since moving to network TV) has seen his Late Show ratings rise, while Jimmy Fallon’s (late night’s existing resident apolitical Fun Guy) have fallen. Samantha Bee’s ratings nearly doubled among adult viewers from Full Frontal’s first season to its second. For audiences, “being a human being” is not separate from talking politics.

Miller makes sure to praise the political talk show Comedy Central does have. And, in fact, they’re getting more, as The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper is getting his own show, and comedian Anthony Atamanuik is turning his famous Donald Trump impression into The President Show. (Don’t worry, though, I’m sure Comedy Central’s late night department will realize women exist soon.) But does the existence of those (mostly white and overwhelmingly male) shows beg to be balanced out by a deliberate shunning of politics? There are so many other directions Comedy Central could have gone in to create a balanced late night landscape. How many other voices could they be giving a platform to? Because the choice to remain steadfastly apolitical is a political move. And it’s one that audiences are seeming to connect with less and less.

 

(image: HBO)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.