It’s difficult to see in the fog of war, but comedienne Kathy Griffin did Donald Trump a huge favor. Before I explain, look at all the benefits Trump got from Griffin’s decapitation humor:
- Prominent Democrats and CNN turned against Hillary Clinton
- Andrea Mitchell and other journalists began admitting the Russian conspiracy theory is a hoax
- Americans sympathize with the Trump family
- Kathy Griffin’s crazy press conference made Trump look mature, sober, and sane by comparison
Kathy Griffin’s career disaster is a classic example of overplaying one’s hand. For a while, Trump jokes were the easiest laugh you could get. But with so much material created by so many comedians, our brains developed tolerance. I’ll explain.
Laughter is a chemical response. Endorphins and dopamine are the chemicals associated with laughter. They’re also the chemicals that nicotine stimulates.
When you smoke your first cigarette, you get a mighty rush. You feel so good that the smell and taste of burning leaves doesn’t bother you.
Your second cigarette feels just as good. But if you measured the endorphins and dopamine levels, you’d see that the second cigarette was slightly less effective than the first. If you keep smoking, you’ll eventually need stronger cigarettes and more of them to approximate the same happiness you got from your first.
The bad news gets worse. Because you’ve artificially stimulated your happy circuits for so long, your brain forgets how to make itself happy.
That’s how dependency works. Exposure to a chemical builds tolerance which leads to dependency.
And it works with jokes, too.
How funny is the funniest joke you ever heard the third time you hear it?
Because of tolerance, it’s getting harder and harder to make people laugh with Trump jokes. Everybody’s heard them all. So comedians have to ramp up the shock factor. And they have been. And it was working.
Until Kathy Griffin went too far.
Now, Trump jokes feel stale and cynical. Because Kathy Griffin jumped the shark. Griffin went too far by cutting off Donald Trump’s head in a simulation.
As her punishment, she:
- got fired from CNN
- got disinvited from an Al Franken book promotion
- got most of her upcoming concerts cancelled
- got humiliated at her sad press conference
That’s a lot of punishment for going too far. And it indicates that people have said “enough is enough” when it comes to Trump jokes.
What’s great for Trump is that the opposite of laughter, in this case, is empathy. People who were laughing at Trump jokes last week empathize with him and his family today. They won’t admit it, but a chemical analysis of their brains would confirm it. When people see Trump now, they’ll release more oxytocin and less cortisol. Oxytocin makes us feel connection to other people, even affection. Cortisol is the stress hormone that makes us feel anxious.
Public affection for Trump will increase for a few weeks. You won’t see a major change in the polls for some time, but you will see the lying, rotten media treat him a little bit more fairly.
And you’ll probably see the media turn their rottenness against Hillary Clinton instead. So will the DNC. And our brains will get the message: you elected the right candidate last year.
That will give people a whole new bias to confirm.
Also published on Medium.