Over the weekend, a social media firestorm erupted over… the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar.
After Fox News—and then the president’s Gob-like son, Donald Trump Jr.—complained about the Manhattan play, which features a President Trump-esque Caesar who, as the play goes, is stabbed by his fellow politicians during its denouement—Delta Air Lines and Bank of America pulled out of sponsoring the production, and this at a time when the public arts are already under fire from the Trump administration, which has threatened to defund the National Endowment of the Arts.
Those on the left—and for the right to free artistic expression—were upset that the corporations caved in to pressure from the right, who mischaracterized the play as pro-assassination. And on Tuesday night, The Daily Show gave their take on the controversy.
“Now, clearly putting a Trump lookalike into Julius Caesar angered a lot of people. Plus, the play totally ignores that it was Ted Cruz’s dad who actually killed Caesar, but that’s beside the point,” cracked host Trevor Noah. “Fortunately, somebody’s got Bill Shakespeare’s back—and that’s Fox News.”
Noah then threw to a montage of Fox News pundits losing their marbles over the play, with one labeling it “a perversion of Shakespeare” and Kimberly Guilfoyle exclaiming, “If this was President Obama and they behaved in this fashion, you cannot even imagine the international outrage.”
“OK wait… I’m sorry… what? A ‘perversion of Shakespeare?’ Shakespeare’s whole point in writing Julius Caesar was that violence in politics makes things worse,” said Noah. “And how are you just learning that Shakespeare is distasteful? How are you just learning that? No, just think about it: The dude’s plays have beheadings, suicides, and characters have their own dead children fed to them. Shakespeare is basically Quentin Tarantino with a thesaurus.”
As for Guilfoyle’s claim that liberals would go nuts if Obama was Caesar, well, during the 2012 season, the popular Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis indeed presented an Obama-inspired Julius Caesar—and Delta was a major sponsor. There was little to no liberal outrage over the production, and Delta continued to sponsor the acting troupe that put on the play.
MSP Magazine described the production in a review as follows: “And, because Caesar is cast as a tall, lanky black man, the Obama inference is a bit too obvious. But it fits, sort of. Like Caesar, Obama rose to power on a tide of public goodwill; like Caesar, there were many in government who doubted Obama’s leadership abilities; and now that Obama’s first term has failed to live up to the messianic hype, there are plenty of people who—for the good of the country, you understand, not their own glory—want to take Obama down.”
Cue Noah: “Exactly! It happened—and no one cared it happened because it happens with tons of leaders. They always make a Caesar production with the leader who’s in power,” offered Noah. “If anything, we should say that all Shakespeare plays should include Donald Trump. They should, yeah—if only to hear him speaking like a thespian. ‘The lady doth protest too much… unless you’re a star, then they let you do it.’”