STUDY: 81 Percent Of All Political Jokes Targeted Conservatives In 2023

January 5th, 2024 10:00 AM

Throughout all of 2023, the late night comedians told a total of 9,518 political jokes, and of these 7,729 or 81 percent were directed at someone or something on the right side of the political spectrum, an MRC study has found.

From January 3 through December 22, MRC analysts analyzed all six of the daily late night shows: Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden until its April cancellation.

A complete breakdown of all 9,518 jokes can be found here, but detailed below is a summary of all six shows both collectively and individually, but first here is a montage put together by NewsBusters media editor Bill D'Agostino that summarizes the type of jokes told in 2023 inspired by the worst late night moments of the year.



Late Night 2023 Findings: 552 Episodes

Of the remaining jokes, 1,601 targeted the left and 186 were directed at people, groups, or institutions not associated with either side. Additionally, 493 unique targets were joked about, 285 of which were on the right, 167 of which were on the left, and 41 of which were non-partisan. 

The top ten included nine right-leaners and only one-left leaner. In order, they were Donald Trump (2,440), Joe Biden (912), George Santos (835), Republicans (371), Ron DeSantis (310), Tucker Carlson (265), Rudy Giuliani (242), Mike Pence (205), and Kevin McCarthy and Marjorie Taylor Greene (196 each).

Compared with the former vice president getting 205 jokes, the current vice president, Kamala Harris, was targeted for only 34 jokes.

When it came to Congressional leadership, Republican leaders were targeted way more often than Democrats to the tune of 338-9 (Mike Johnson: 103, Mitch McConnell: 39 vs. Chuck Schumer: 9). Mike Johnson assumed the Speaker's office on October 25. Somehow, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jefferies was never joked about.

There are two ways to look at joke comparisons between presidential kids. Either take Donald Trump Jr. (136), Eric Trump (91), and Ivanka Trump (23) as a collective to compare against Hunter Biden (1:1 ratio) or view them as four separate people (3:1 ratio). Either way, Trump’s children were joked about in far greater numbers than Hunter at 250-27 or a ratio of over 9:1.

Cable news that leans conservative was also ridiculed far more often than liberal cable news with a score of 179-18 with Fox News getting 173 jokes and Newsmax getting six compared to CNN's 14 and MSNBC's four.

Conservative Supreme Court Justices were also targeted more than their liberal counterparts and not just at the 2:1 ratio that exists on the Court, but at 64-1. (That's Clarence Thomas: 51, Samuel Alito: 4, Brett Kavanaugh: 4, Neil Gorsuch: 3, Amy Coney Barrett and John Roberts: 1 vs. Elena Kagan: 1). Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson escaped ridicule completely.

Other interesting tidbits include that "The Squad" -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and fire alarm-puller Jamaal Bowman -- had a combined zero jokes told about them. Additionally, there were more joke told about Abraham Lincoln and his top hat (6) than Bob Menendez, indicted Democratic senator, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and alleged foreign agent of Egypt (4). Martin Van Buren (3), Chester Arthur, and NORAD commander Glenn VanHerck (2) all had more jokes directed at them than Secretary of State Antony Blinken (1) and disgraced former Harvard President Claudine Gay (1).

Other than Joe Biden, no Democrat placed in the top 25. One would have to go to Bernie Sanders (53) in 26th place to find the next lefty. Congress (57), as an institution, at 25, was the only other non-right leaner in the top 25.

To break it down by program: 


ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live!: 100 Episodes

The top insult hurler of the four permanent hosts, Jimmy Kimmel is the most mean-spirited and most partisan of the analyzed sextet with 2,215 jokes in 2023, and of these 1,960 or 88 percent were directed at right-leaning targets, 237 were directed against left-leaners, and 18 were directed against non-partisans. Additionally, Kimmel focused on 142 unique targets, 94 of whom were on the right, 37 of whom were on the left, and 11 of whom were non-partisan.

In his top ten, there were nine right-leaners and one left-leaner: Donald Trump (762), George Santos (276), Joe Biden (164), Mike Lindell (106), Mike Pence (72), Republicans (62), Donald Trump Jr. (58), Tucker Carlson (53), Marjorie Taylor Greene (47), and Ted Cruz (38).

On the matter of recent vice presidents, in addition to the aforementioned Pence, Kamala Harris was only joked about once. Likewise, on the subject of Congressional leaders Mike Johnson (21), Kevin McCarthy (27), and Mitch McConnell (1) outnumbered Chuck Schumer 49-1.

When it came to presidential kids, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump (32), and Ivanka Trump (11) outscored Hunter Biden by a score of 101-9. Similarly, on the media, Fox News (28) and Newsmax (3) outnumbered jokes about CNN 31-1.

Kimmel told no jokes about the Supreme Court justices.


CBS: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: 86 Episodes

Late night’s resident group therapist, Stephen Colbert is who liberals tune into for a cathartic experience where they boo Republicans and cheer their misfortune. Pre-strike Colbert gave Donald Trump the He Who Must Not Be Named treatment, going so far as to censor his name in on-screen graphics. That went away post-strike, but still among America’s leading voices on the religious left, Colbert reliably brought liberalism in 2023 to the tune of 1,655 jokes out of a total of 1,918 or 86 percent. Of the remaining jokes, 219 were directed towards the left with 44 being directed at non-partisan targets.

Colbert went after 205 different figures in 2023 with 136 being on the right, 51 being on the left, and 18 being non-partisan.

For his top ten, Colbert also featured nine right-leaners and one left-leaner. They were Donald Trump (385), George Santos (262), Joe Biden (119), Republicans (85), Kevin McCarthy (76), Ron DeSantis (66), Tucker Carlson (49), Fox News (48), Rudy Giuliani (40), and Mike Johnson (38).

Mike Pence drew 34 jokes to Kamala Harris getting one. Adding to Kevin McCarthy and Mike Johnson, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was the targeted five times for a combined score of 119-0 on the Congressional leader scorecard.

On presidential children, Eric Trump was targeted 24 times, Donald Trump Jr. 16 times, and Ivanka Trump and Hunter two times each for a total of 42-2 or a 21:1 ratio.

Newsmax and CNN were each targeted one time to bring the cable outlets score to 49-1.

When it came time to discuss the Court, jokes directed at conservatives outnumbered liberals 28-0 (Clarence Thomas: 21, Samuel Alito: 4, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Brett Kavanaugh: 1).


NBC: Late Night with Seth Meyers: 96 Episodes

Due to his over-long “Closer Look” segment that is basically just primetime MSNBC with random digressions, eccentric metaphors, and lamentful comparisons to the New York Jets and Mets, Meyers told the most total jokes in 2023 as he worked to provide his audience with the left’s latest talking points. He checked in with 2,445 total jokes, 2,050 or 84 percent of which targeted those on the right, 355 targeted those on the left, and 40 were non-partisan. Meyers targeted 192 unique people and groups with 119 of those being on the right side of the spectrum, 51 on the left, and 22 were non-partisan.

Meyers’s top ten also featured nine right-leaners and one left-leaner. They were Donald Trump (697), Joe Biden (220), Rudy Giuliani (161), Republicans (126), Ron DeSantis (117), George Santos (93), Tucker Carlson (81), Marjorie Taylor Greene (65), Kevin McCarthy (54), and Fox News (46).

Former Vice President Mike Pence was the target of 40 jokes while Kamala Harris was the target of only five.

Republican Congressional leadership outnumbered Democratic leadership 72-1 (Johnson: 12, McConnell: 6 vs. Schumer: 1).

On the subject of presidential kids, Eric Trump was attacked 25 times, Donald Trump Jr. 24, and Ivanka Trump three times. Hunter Biden was attacked seven times for a cumulative total of 52-7 or over 7:1. For the media, Fox and Newsmax (1) outnumbered CNN 47-1.

For the Court, the count was 12-1 with a breakdown of Clarence Thomas (8), Neil Gorsuch (2), Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts and, Elena Kagan (1).


Comedy Central: The Daily Show: 88 Episodes

The Daily Show did not have a permeant host in 2023, instead choosing to have a carousel of temp hosts. These temp hosts included Daily Show correspondents, celebrities, and former Democratic officials. All told, The Daily Show guest hosts told 1,277 political jokes in 2023. Of these, 1,002 or 78 percent targeted those on the right, 231 focused on the left, and 44 were non-partisan. The Daily Show focused its fire on 159 total targets, 92 of which were right-leaning, 50 of which were left-leaning, and 17 of which were non-partisan.

Of all the temp hosts who had at least one full week of four episodes, John Leguizamo was the most liberal with 98 percent (65/66) of his jokes being directed at right-leaning targets. Hasan Minhaj was the most balanced with 56 percent (20/36) of his jokes being directed towards the right. Minhaj, however, will almost certainly will not be the new full time host as a result of his scandal where he was found to have lied about his past in his jokes in order to make his point about alleged Islamophobia in America. A complete breakdown of all the temp hosts can be found here.

For its top ten, The Daily Show also included nine right-leaners and one left-leaner. They were Donald Trump (178), George Santos (90), Joe Biden (68) Tucker Carlson (63), Republicans (57), MAGA/Trump supporters (48), Ron DeSantis (42), conservatives (41), Fox News (29), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (26).

Former Vice President Mike Pence (23) was targeted more often than current Vice President Kamala Harris (7) while Republican leadership was targeted much more often than Democratic leadership, 34-3 (Kevin McCarthy (2), Mike Johnson (21), Mitch McConnell (11) vs. Chuck Schumer (3)).

The trio of Donald Trump Jr. (8), Eric Trump (1), and Ivanka Trump (3) were joked about more often (12) than Hunter (6), but only at a 2:1 ratio.

Fox News and Newsmax (1) were joked about 30 times while CNN (1) and MSNBC (4) were only joked about five times.

Conservative justices were joked about 20 times (Clarence Thomas:18 and Brett Kavanaugh: 2) while no liberal justice was targeted.


NBC: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: 129 Episodes

With his affinity for wordplay and puns, Jimmy Fallon is probably the least mean-spirited of his contemporaries and despite being on the air an extra day every week, told considerably less jokes than the other three permanent hosts. However, Fallon’s joke totals still had a slant that, while considerably less than the others, was still somewhat significant with 929 of his 1,416 (66 percent) political jokes being directed towards the right. That left 455 for left-leaners and 32 for non-partisans.

Fallon poked fun at 196 unique targets, 103 of whom were on the right, 85 of whom were on the left, and 18 of whom were non-partisan.

In his top ten, Fallon featured eight right-leaners, two left-leaners, and non-partisan. They were Donald Trump (364), Joe Biden (264), George Santos (99), Ron DeSantis (56), Mike Pence (35), Kevin McCarthy and Republicans (34), Donald Trump Jr. (30), Marjorie Taylor Greene (21), and Kamala Harris and Congress (18).

In addition to McCarthy, Fallon went after Mitch McConnell 16 times and Mike Johnson 11 times. He also went after Chuck Schumer four times for a final score of 61-4.

Fallon targeted Trump’s kids more often to a tune of 43-2 (Eric Trump: 9 and Ivanka Trump: 4 vs. Hunter Biden: 2) or over 21:1.

On the media side, Fallon was more even with Fox being targeted 14 times to CNN’s 10.

When it came to SCOTUS, Clarence Thomas was targeted four times while the other eight escaped ridicule.


CBS: The Late Late Show with James Corden: 53 Episodes

NOTE: The Late Late Show was cancelled on April 27.

While he definitely had his moments of being a flaming liberal partisan, James Corden was on average the least partisan of the six late night talk shows. He told 245 political jokes in 2023, 133 (54 percent) were on the right, 104 were of the left, and eight were non-partisan.

Corden also targeted a total of 39 people and organizations, 20 of which were on the right, 14 were on the left, and five were non-partisan.

His top ten included seven right-leaning targets, four left-leaning, and one non-partisan. They were Joe Biden (77), Donald Trump (54), George Santos (15), Ted Cruz (13), Fox News and Tucker Carlson (8), Ron DeSantis and Republicans (7), and Jill Biden (6). There were four jokes about Democrats, four about the military (during the Chinese spy-balloon scandal) and four on Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Harris. The Jill Biden-Doug Emhoff jokes came with their kiss at the State of the Union address.

On Congressional leaders, he also targeted Kevin McCarthy three times and the others zero times. For cable news, he targeted Fox eight times while not going after Newsmax, CNN, and MSNBC. 

Corden told no jokes about Supreme Court justices. He was unique in that he told more jokes about Kamala Harris (2) than Mike Pence (1) and more jokes about Hunter Biden (1) than the Trump kids (0).

METHODOLOGY: The definition of a joke was anything that attempted to get people to laugh, which is not necessarily the same thing as a line meant to elicit applause or booing from the studio audience. To remain as objective as possible, jokes were not evaluated for harshness (i.e. a name-based pun is the same as a joke about character or policy), whether the target could be said to have “deserved it,” meaning whether or not the argument behind the joke was true or whether the target was hit from the left or the right.

Only Jokes about people, groups of people (i.e. Republicans), or institutions runs by people (i.e. Fox News). Only Americans or people with ties to American politics were included. Jokes about multiple people were counted as separate jokes (i.e. one for Donald Trump Jr. and one for Eric Trump).

The target did not have to be mentioned directly (i.e. “Florida has done X” could be interpreted as “Ron DeSantis has done X” or “Republicans have done X” depending on context) and simply because a joke mentioned someone by name, does not mean they were the intended target (i.e. “Joe Biden was in Kyiv to look for Hunter Biden’s other laptop” is actually a sarcastic joke mocking Republican oversight theories and priorities).

Jokes could be told by anybody including hosts, guests, show writers, or be part of a sketch. Jokes told by The Daily Show correspondents outside of their week of solo temp hosting were including in that week’s host (i.e. Jokes told by Desi Lydic during Al Franken’s week are included under Franken). Jokes by hosts or guests about themselves were not included. Jokes did not have to be audible (i.e. body language parodies or unflattering photos) to be included. Video or sound clips of targets, including Man-on-the-Street interviews, were evaluated on a case-by-case basis to judge whether the stated remarks or physical action (i.e. Biden tripping on the steps of Air Force One) was itself the joke or used for exposition.

NOTES: Kevin McCarthy’s leadership counts includes jokes after his removal from the Speakership. All jokes about Mike Johnson were after his election as Speaker. Bob Menendez’s count includes jokes before his scandal.