No laughing matter: Sean Spicer at the 69th Emmy Awards

The Emmy Awards were Sunday night, and I paid surprisingly little attention to the ceremony itself this year. Mostly, if not entirely, because The Leftovers wasn’t nominated across the board. But still, I woke up this morning and checked who won what, like I do with every awards ceremony that interests me. It was a night of historic firsts in fields for writing, directing, and acting, as well as a historic sixth for American comedy icon Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But it wasn’t all about new ground being broken. The past, of course, casts a shadow on the ceremony, and the American political climate continued to feel inescapable. These two things came to a head when Former White House Press Secretary, and object of SNL derision, Sean Spicer, made a cameo to mock Trump.

It would be an understatement to say that opinion on his appearance was divided. The Daily Mail went as far as to say that he “betrayed his former boss,” and Time Magazine described it as being “the perfect Trump joke.” On the other side of the reaction spectrum, Slate called Spicer’s cameo as a “sickening, cynical, laugh-grab.” The thing is though, if papers are talking about this like they’re evaluating a joke if they found it funny or not, then they’re asking the wrong questions.

‘SNL’ cold-open featuring Melissa McCarthy as then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

Christina Cauterucci’s Slate piece, after talking about Spicer’s self-awareness as being the butt of jokes, goes on to say that his appearance as the Emmys gave him “a platform for reputation rehabilitation,” and that including members of a hateful administration in comedic bits and sketch shows, with Trump himself having hosted Saturday Night Live during the presidential campaign, “is to obscure the depth of the harm they do.” Trump hosted SNL in 2015 and won the primary the year after, so while there was, of course, controversy around his appearance, this wasn’t quite at the point in the race when people were taking him seriously as a potential President. Now though, things are different, very different. It might sound a little dramatic, but since Trump hosted SNL, the world has changed in a lot of ways. So now, Sean Spicer appearing at the Emmys to make some jokes that aren’t even that funny, is no laughing matter.

The entirety of Sean Spicer’s association with Donald Trump happened when Trump was in power. Spicer was literally a mouthpiece for Trump’s agenda. As well as this, he lied about everything from the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, to whether or not Hitler used chemical weapons. Just to clear up those things, in case anybody’s uncertain: the crowd was small, and Hitler did use chemical weapons. They were a cornerstone of one of, if not the worst, atrocities of modern history. But don’t worry, Spicer made some inauguration jokes, and that makes everything okay.

Except it doesn’t. Not really. Not at all. Again, Spicer was a mouthpiece for a figure that spews bile in front of cameras. Except this time it wasn’t Trump, but Spicer himself. I can’t fathom what was going through the mind of the Emmy writers room when they thought “you know who would be great? Sean Spicer.” Whether they wanted to or not, they normalised Spicer, and he didn’t seem at all apologetic for his part in the Trump administration, or the lies that he told. Now, I’m not expecting Spicer to turn up at the Emmys to apologise for his role in a hateful regime. What I’m expecting, is for Sean Spicer to not show up at the Emmy Awards. Period.

Those writing about the Spicer controversy have asked if Spicer is “in on the joke,” and whether he is or not isn’t the issue. Again, if people are asking question about this as if it were a joke, then they’re asking the wrong questions. The question needs to be why? Why let Spicer on the Emmys? Why let him tell jokes that downplay his consistent dishonesty with the American public? Why are people laughing at this at all? It isn’t funny. The American political climate is still inescapable, and for many is still a dark cloud that hangs over their day to day lives, that makes them feel disenfranchised, or afraid for their lives. So allowing Sean Spicer, a man that amplified that fear, to let us laugh with him, just isn’t funny.