On Monday night, after Republican candidate Donald Trump called for a blanket ban on Muslims traveling into the United States, many Twitter users declared that they were done laughing at the Trump campaign.
A line had been crossed. Donald Trump had stopped being funny:
Writers at several publications agreed; Donald Trump, once funny, was no longer.
"Trump's latest howler isn't funny, it's poisonous," the Los Angeles Times op-ed writer Michael McGough declared. "The clown is no longer funny," The Guardian's Owen Jones wrote.
Most notably, the Huffington Post, which had been covering the Trump campaign in its Entertainment section since June, reversed its stance. "We are no longer entertained," Arianna Huffington wrote in a blog post, hours after Trump called for the ban on Muslims. "Not funny anymore," concluded a headline from The Associated Press covering the decision.
Members of both parties agreed that Trump's proposal to collectively discriminate against a certain religion was, indeed, not funny. But was this really the exact point in time that the Donald Trump comedy franchise lost steam and stopped being funny?
For months now, writers, political pundits, Twitter users, and other arbiters of comedy have been declaring that Donald Trump is no longer funny, their declarations usually spurred by a specific Trump remark or incident that targeted a specific minority group. "Donald Trump isn't funny anymore" tweets line the walls of the Twitter archives from the summer onward.
So when, officially, did Donald Trump stop being funny? It depends on whom you ask.
In the middle of June, when Trump announced his candidacy with a manic and disjointed speech before an audience of compensated actors, almost everyone agreed that Donald Trump, and the idea of his presidency, was funny. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart called Trump's candidacy "a gift from heaven"; late-night comedians Seth Meyers, Larry Wilmore, and Stephen Colbert all celebrated the news. Trump was a political comedian's dream. He was funny.
But as Trump gained actual, non-compensated supporters, largely on the back of his racially and ethnically charged rhetoric, the laughter began to cease.
On August 21st, days after two white men severely beat a Hispanic man and then credited Donald Trump's language surrounding immigration as inspiration, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi called it. "Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny," his headline read.
Taibbi's column proved to be prophetic, and not just because it correctly predicted the escalation of Trump's "anti-immigrant rhetoric" over the next several months. It also anticipated the template of a column, the outlines of a viewpoint, the go-to reaction for many a future news item about the Republican front-runner: Donald Trump, once funny, no longer is.
On August 27th, the Daily Beast's Barrett Holmes Pitner had also had enough. "OK, This Trump Thing Isn't Funny Anymore," his column began, citing shouts of "White power" at Trump rallies, and the candidate's endorsement by White Power-powered website Stormfront.
"The joke is over," Pitner wrote, but it wasn't over for everyone. On September 2nd, Quartz's Jake Flanigan judged Trump to no longer be funny, comparing the American candidate to a notorious anti-immigrant French politician. On October 20th, Haylee Millikan, writing for CNBC, argued that "Trump's presidential run isn't funny anymore," citing his earlier suggestion that Mexicans are rapists.
On November 8th Trump hosted Saturday Night Live, amid calls by several Latino advocacy groups and Hispanic politicians for NBC to reconsider giving friendly airtime to such a polarizing figure. "Trump is a joke but racism isn't funny" became the rallying cry of the movement.
NBC did not back down. Trump hosted the episode; most critics agreed that Trump was not funny, though not in the way he is normally not funny.
By November 25th, days after a black protester at a Trump rally was beaten, threatened, and called racial slurs, SNL alumnus Seth Meyers agreed that Donald Trump was no longer funny. After Trump refused to back down from his widely debunked claims that thousands of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the rooftops in Jersey City, Meyers suggested that Trump had crossed over from funny to dangerous. With the claims, as well as his retweet of an incorrect statistic about black-on-white violence invented by a neo-Nazi, Trump had crossed the "threshold from fun wild-card candidate who said crazy things and made debates watchable to someone who's spreading dangerous rhetoric," Meyers said.
On the neo-Nazi retweet, The Intercept agreed. There was "nothing funny about a leading presidential candidate spreading racist propaganda on crime," Juan Thompson wrote. A day later, Donald Trump mocked the arm movements of a New York Times reporter with a congenital disorder during a speech. No one found this funny, though Trump did not apologize, claiming that he had never met the reporter, despite the fact that he certainly had.
That brings us, more or less, back to the present day. Trump's proposals for Muslim databases and travel bans, his consistent lead in polls, and, most recently, his near-endorsement of the internment of Japanese-American during World War II, have earned him even more negative reviews and plenty of "not funny anymore" tweets.
And it has also bred a new kind of judgment on the inherent comedic value of Donald J. Trump: Namely, that the Trump campaign was, even at the moment that our late-night hosts were praising the comedy gods, already not funny.
"It’s not that the Trump joke has run its course," Kia Marakechi wrote in Vanity Fair this morning. "It’s that it was never funny to begin with."