Netflix Tries Out Button To Skip Trump Jokes

Published on November 4, 2019

Seth Meyers is no stranger to political humor, but the long-time comedian is partnering with Netflix for a novel streaming feature: the ability to ‘opt out’ of select political humor. Meyers’ forthcoming special, Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby (debuting on November 5th on Netflix) will allow viewers to skip the comedian’s jokes about U.S. President Donald Trump, a feature that hasn’t been incorporated into other Netflix comedy specials.

Much Ado About A Button

Meyers hosts Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC, having built his career as a host on SNL. The button itself will work much like Netflix’ ‘Skip Intros’ button, allowing viewers to choose to watch the special as a whole but to easily navigate past political humor. The comedian told CNN that, in working with Netflix for his forthcoming special, he realized technology was available to allow political content to be skipped. He told CNN:

“It dawned on me that because it was on Netflix, there would be this opportunity to put in technology that would allow people to skip it… It was a way to build in the response to anyone who would say, ‘Oh, let me guess there’s going to be jokes about the president.’”

The button will be a one-off, stemming from Meyers’ own jokes about political joke fatigue, sources say. In incorporating the button, Meyers reportedly doubts there will be much use of the button, but more generally included it as a kind of meta-joke:

“I think, look, sometimes at a fancy restaurant they’ll put parsley on your plate and you’ll think, Well, that’s a nice touch, but you’re not going to eat the parsley.”

A Netflix spokesperson expressed to CNET that Netflix ‘supports the creative views of the artists it works with’. In a response to CNN Business, Robbie Praw (Netflix’s director of original standout comedy programming) told CNN Business that the gag was Meyers’ idea, and “we’re thrilled he was able to take advantage of the Netflix experience in such a funny and innovative way.”

Choose-Your-Own-Comedy Adventure

This isn’t Netflix’s first foray into giving users a chance to manipulate their experience of Netflix content. The streaming titan debuted Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a multiple-ending interactive film that centered around a young video game developer building a choose-your-own-adventure-style game. Audiences can choose actions for him, and the choices alter his progression through the events of the film as well as the ending an audience member receives.

More interactive additions to video content haven’t been integrated widely before by Netflix, and so far Bandersnatch is a one-off as well. The inclusion of a content-skipping button, however, is an interesting development from a company that is no stranger to controversial content–or comedy for that matter. For example, Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones explicitly criticizes ‘cancel culture’ and taboo subjects, an approach intended to invite controversy and challenge conventions.

Netflix’s permissive culture has encouraged a wide variety of comedians and distinct approaches to comedy. Whereas Dave Chappelle’s specials have been routinely chastised on social media for insensitivity to the LGBTQ community, Netflix also hosted the widely lauded Hannah Gadsby special Nanette, a special explicitly challenging comedy’s approach to marginalized communities in thoughtful, novel ways. The company’s stance on editorial freedom indeed seems to preclude a ‘joke skip’ button from being more widely adopted, but for now you can enjoy the novelty with Meyers’ special.  Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby premieres tomorrow.


Jeff Ewing is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he covers entertainment news.

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