Which Comedians Would’ve Been the Best Debate Moderators?

Earlier this week, Donald Trump tweeted his approval of debating Joe Biden on Joe Rogan’s podcast. According to the original tweet from retired MMA fighter Tim Kennedy, it would be “four hours with no live audience. Just the two candidates, cameras, and their vision of how to move the country forward.”

Despite the clear entertainment value, it’s obviously never going to happen. Rogan is too radical according to the political elites (namely liberals) who organize these theatrics, and people definitely don’t need four hours of any kind of content, let alone presidential debates. Plus, Rogan’s meandering conversational style probably wouldn’t give us anything worthwhile—if we’re gonna dream up a wild debate scenario, why not slot in a moderator who’ll actually hold candidates’ feet to the fire? Fortunately, there are plenty of comedians, past and present, that would be perfect for the job.

George Carlin

Carlin is on the stand-up Mount Rushmore. His specials are a unique mixture of punchlines, wordplay, and mind-bending wisdom. He regularly discussed politics—namely how the United States’ elites were constantly getting over on regular working class Americans. A few months ago, Pattern Integrity films used a snippet from Carlin’s 2005’s Life is Worth Losing in an anti-Trump ad alongside the hashtag #AmericaWakeUp.

Carlin certainly had a leftist bent, but harbored such a strong resentment for the ruling class that he wouldn’t let Biden or Trump off the hook on anything. He’s our hypothetical No. 1 draft pick.

Lewis Black

Black’s star rose in the early to mid-2000s, in part as a contributor to The Daily Show. He was adept at channeling the anger most Americans had at the political establishment—mainly by yelling and calling pretty much every politician, Republican and Democrat, a fucking idiot. Black famously referred to America’s two-party system as “a bowl of shit looking in the mirror at itself” and described the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry as “choosing between two bowls of shit. The only difference is the smell.”

Shit bowl references aside, Black’s low bullshit tolerance would make for some great (and probably loud) moments.

Wanda Sykes

Sykes has been all over Hollywood forever and talks frequently about presidential politics in her stand up. Her 2009 special I’ma Be Me focused heavily on then-newly-elected President Barack Obama, and she went in on Trump in her 2019 special Not Normal. It’s quite the juxtaposition a decade apart, but like Carlin and Black, her disdain for bullshit puts her near the top of the list. When a crowd booed her for calling Trump a racist and sexist shortly after his election in 2016, she told the audience to fuck off. Imagine that energy playing out on a debate stage and Sykes calling out Trump on his rampant bullshit, and you understand why she’s high on our list.

Bill Hicks

Hicks was legendary for his direct, angry, no-nonsense delivery and worldview. Almost every famous stand-up comedian is known for being unapologetic, and Hicks was confrontationally so. His political and anti-capitalist takes during the Clinton presidency were classic and delivered with a frustrated irreverence for power that would seem to fit our current moment perfectly. There’s a decent chance he’d haul off and start ranting at both candidates about the New World Order through a haze of cigarette smoke, but honestly who wouldn’t rather see that than a presidential debate?

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