On March 19, Charlotte Pence, daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, released a children’s book she wrote, and her mother illustrated entitled Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President. The book outlines a day in the life of the Pence Family rabbit who is cleverly named Marlon Bundo. In the book, Bundo follows Vice President Pence to his daily meetings and the children’s book even includes a moment where Bundo contemplates the significance of a Bible verse. The Pence family set dates for a book tour for their picture book, which was published by Regnery Publishing, and pledged some of the proceeds to A21, a charity that works to combat human trafficking, and Tracey’s Kids, a charity that provides art therapy for pediatric cancer patients.
The politics of Vice President Pence have been a target for many comedians and civilians alike, however one outlandish Brit, John Oliver, has taken the cake and written his own book entitled A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. In Oliver’s version of the book, Marlon Bundo is gay and falls in love with a male bunny named Wesley. A direct criticism of Pence’s anti-LGBTQ+ political stances, John Oliver has also pledged to donate all proceeds from his now New York Times bestseller to The Trevor Project, a charity that works to prevent suicide amongst LGBTQ+ youth, and AIDS United. As of March 23, Oliver’s satirical version is out-ranking former FBI director James Comey’s memoir and Charlotte Pence even purchased her own version saying she could get behind the book because Oliver is giving the proceeds to charity. The Second Family’s publisher did not feel the same way, saying in a statement, “It’s unfortunate that anyone would feel the need to ridicule an educational children’s book and turn it into something controversial and partisan.”
Oliver is known for promoting stunts like these amongst his fanbase through things such as creating a fake mega church or remaking a music video of “A Man like Putin.” While a satire, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo has a few very important sociopolitical points to make. It plays to Pence’s fears of the LGBTQ+ community, but also serves as a platform for encouraging discussion regarding queer sexuality with children through the book’s unique love story. Although I understand the desire of Regnery Publishing to ensure their book is profitable, issues like these should not be partisan. Oliver’s decision to write his book is a power afforded to him by the Constitution, and the publisher identifies themselves as “The Leader in Conservative Books.”
Using comedy as a coping mechanism has been a longstanding and worthwhile tradition. The popularity and following that shows such as Oliver’s Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and the resurgence of Saturday Night Live viewership following Trump’s election, reinforce this idea that, in order to digest tough facts and gut-wrenching stories, it is oftentimes easier to receive those stories in a manner that allows for understanding and humor. Not only do these shows provide comfort for their viewers, they also play an important role in critiquing the actions of politicians and garnering public support for holding public officials accountable. Show hosts like Oliver and Noah can use their influence for the betterment of society by vocalizing issues present in society and mobilizing viewers that agree with them to take action and demand change.