Comedy is hard, so it's difficult to build a brand into a reliable source for humor. But The Onion has done just that, becoming the National Lampoon of the Internet age. And given all that, you might rightfully expect that a television special that included The Onion in its title might exhibit at least a slight whiff of humor and satire.
But if you tuned into Fusion's "The Onion Presents Trump's Address To The Congress," Tuesday evening, what you saw was a painfully awkward and relentlessly unfunny hour of television. While there's a funny show to be made from the idea of spoofing an address to the Congress, this special managed to flub every chance to seem topical or amusing. It had all of the wit and relevance of a Subway restaurant crew training tape and you didn't even get a minimum wage job after you've finished watching it.
The special was anchored by Nando Vila, along with Natasha Del Toro and Miriti Murungi. There was some brief conversation about what to expect from the speech and while there were a few clumsy attempts to be at least humorous, the end result was a conversation that wasn't entertaining enough to be funny and not filled with enough facts to be informative.
During President Trump's speech (and later, during the Democratic response), "headlines" popped up at the bottom of the screen. I'm assuming they were supposed to be funny, although based on what I saw, the jokes were more sardonic than witty. You know, the kind of lines that when you read them don't elicit a laugh, but more a quiet comment of "Oh, that's cute." Even worse, most of them seemed to be boilerplate lines written well in advance. Which might be a necessary move technically, but it meant that the show couldn't capitalize on the live camera shots and events as they popped up during the speech.
After Trump's speech, there was a bit of discussion about some of its highlights. There didn't seem to be any attempt to be funny at this point. But left to a straight political discussion, Vila, Del Toro and Murungi flailed around like a fat guy swimming in jello. When the hour was over, Villa signed off with a gleeful shout that seemed to say "Hey. I've done the show as you asked, now please release my family and the other hostages."
Wow, this turned out to be an hour of "very sorry I watched TV."