Anyone who has witnessed one of Donald Trump’s fits on Twitter after Alec Baldwin portrays him on Saturday Night Live knows the man hates being laughed at. This is quite true for bullies across the board—humor at their expense makes them quiver. Not only do they not have a sense of humor, but they are incapable of understanding how humor humanizes someone in leadership. Instead, they just attack.
One of the most well known cases of a bully taking on someone with a superb and self-deprecating sense of humor took place between former Daily Show host Jon Stewart and Donald Trump in 2013. Trump had tweeted, “I promise you I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz, I mean Jon Stewart, who by the way is totally overrated.” Stewart wasn’t sure if Trump was trying to “out” him as a Jew—“Doesn’t my face do that?” Stewart said—or insinuate something more sinister, but he was quick on the retort. It took Trump a full four days to come up with his lame response.
The bully’s thin skin is also why Trump hates cartoonist Gary Trudeau who is fond of portraying the current president warts and all. Trudeau isn’t the only comic strip artist who gets under Trump’s skin; he’s joined by cartoonists around the world. However, the image that for my money best captured Trump’s persona was posted yesterday by cartoonist DWITT who inked the strip at the top of this page. It’s the artist’s depiction of Trump’s gag order to government science agencies and the rebellion begun by the National Park Service. Clearly he struck a nerve—now most of the agencies have an alternative, non-governmental Twitter account and a science march on Washington is being planned.
Employees who are working for bully bosses much like Trump can take this comedic energy to help them cope and combat their negative working conditions. But please don’t put your position at risk—take a page from the rogue scientists and do it anonymously and not during working hours. A healthy dose of humor can keep toxic environments from becoming normalized and help activists in the workplace, and in society, fight for psychologically healthy, safe and fair conditions.