I never really thought about Dunk Fatigue until I saw Hasan Minhaj, on his new Netflix show Patriot Act, masterfully working around it.
What is Dunk Fatigue? Well, let us take as a baseline that public life currently is full of people who are pretty easy to dunk on. And let us define "dunk" as a satisfying joke or barrage of jokes mixed with truths, cathartic and merciless, ostentatious and totally sincere, done in front of an audience eager to cheer. Any time you see a headline that says "[SO-AND-SO] DESTROYS [SUCH-AND-SUCH] OVER [TOPIC]," where said destruction takes place in a video you can watch that's just someone talking, that's probably a good old dunk.
One of the challenges of a show that involves a lot of dunks, like Last Week Tonight or Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, is that after a while, it can find itself dunking on the same people over the same things. The same target who made things up last week made similar things up this week; the same monstrous and dangerous things kept happening because of the same weakness and cravenness, and how many times can you make the same dunk? (That is not to say either of those shows do this exclusively; only that it's part of the late-night post-Daily Show format, as it was certainly part of The Daily Show from the beginning.)
Minhaj's Patriot Act has, on the one hand, a host who is as good a dunker as anyone you will ever see. In his 2017 special Homecoming King, one of the best comedy hours Netflix has released during its time in the business, Minhaj tells a winding story about a girl he knew in high school. Quite unexpectedly, it involves, at one point, his recollection of a moment in which he dunked on this girl so beautifully, and so justly, that once he tells of it, and the audience roars, he has to run a victory lap of sorts across the stage, up and down risers, just to burn off the energy. If Minhaj, himself a Daily Show graduate, just wanted to dunk on people for a half-hour at a time, he could do it. It would probably keep people who like him happy for a while.
But he doesn't. The show finds him not behind a desk but standing in front of a crowd, just like in stand-up. The show looks filmed rather than videotaped, and Minhaj simply addresses the crowd—yes, a little like a funny Ted Talk—and then the show is over. It could be nothing but great dunks. It just isn't.