“It was an upsetting process,” Shukoff says of making “Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump” in 2016. Behind the scenes, the show’s performers and writers take great care into researching their characters, be it Julius Caesar, Michael Jordan, or the Ninja Turtles. “We go into these characters and find their voice, to understand what they would say. Normally we’ve done that with character we revere. Figueres that are mythic,” Shukoff explains. “When it came time to understand Donald Trump, it was a dark place.”
Now, Shukoff says the Trump era “has changed me as a person and an artist.” While the show has always been irreverent and sometimes politically incorrect, the YouTube innovator is now truly aware of the power in music and words. Evidence of change is the quiet retirement of the show’s Adolf Hitler caricature, who first appeared in the show’s most popular battle, “Darth Vader vs. Adolf Hitler,” which to date has a monstrous 97 million views and spun off into its own trilogy. Post-Trump, Hitler was left off the 2017 live tour.
“When we made the Hitler battle [back then], Hitler was accepted by all as an evil lesson from the past,” Shukoff says. Now, especially on YouTube, Shukoff is aware of the “celebration” of Hitler among a young, digital audience.
“We don’t want to shout ‘I am Adolf Hitler’ in a room full of people. It was funny when we made it. Now it’s not funny. So we don’t do it.”