Why Comedy Central Keeps Bringing Its Presidential Library of Trump’s Tweets to Life

The exhibition just made its SXSW debut, but it's the sixth time the channel has constructed it

Photos by Dianna McDougall for Adweek
Headshot of Sammy Nickalls

Brands dedicate entire teams to brainstorming new, unexpected activations for SXSW, often specifically designed to inspire shock and awe. Viceland, for example, decided to create an entire roller skating rink out of an Austin parking lot. Michelob Ultra gathered together thousands of attendees for a guided sunset meditation. But ever since November 2016, one thing has never failed to capture the attention of America: the president’s tweets. And Comedy Central has used those tweets for its Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library not once, not twice, but six times.

“Multiple presidents have been honored with libraries commemorating documents of historical value crafted during their time as leader of the free world,” Shawn Silverman, svp of brand marketing and events for Comedy Central, Paramount Network and TV Land, told Adweek. “The Daily Show wanted to honor our current president with his own library, showcasing his preferred vessel for communication: his Twitter feed.”

The Viacom channel brought its satirical display to SXSW for the first time after stints in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. “Initially, we only intended to do it as a one off in New York, but after seeing people willing to wait in line for six-plus hours to experience it in person, we realized we had something special with the Library and decided to take it on tour,” Silverman explained. “Fortunately, we built it in a way that was very modular, so we were able to easily break it down, put it in storage, add new pieces, and expand the layout in between cities.”

Although the Library been constructed six times, Comedy Central clearly has plenty of new content to work with, considering how often Trump tweets. It also debuts new elements with every new city, such as its Miami addition: an entrance to Mar-a-Lago in the form of a giant gold door, only admissible to those willing to pay the $200,000 entry fee and follow the dress code (men: jacket and MAGA hat; women: something sexy). By keeping the Library as up-to-date as possible, the exhibition has morphed into a “living, breathing activation that grows and expands all the time,” Silverman explained.

“[We] have had to literally print new pieces while the Library is open to account for the latest tweetstorm,” Silverman said, adding that the Library includes a large screen featuring Trump’s Twitter feed with an alarm that goes off in real time when he fires off a new tweet. ” … It’s a pretty special experience for those fortunate enough to be in the Library when he’s actually tweeting.”

Each time Comedy Central reconstructs the pop-up, Silverman added, “we get better at enriching the experience for the fans, because we have new insights on how to improve it.” And it doesn’t look like it’ll be stopping anytime soon.

“We’re constantly getting requests via social to bring it to other cities because people across the globe want to experience it in person,” Silverman explained.

While Comedy Central is taking it “one city at a time rather than looking too far down the road,” Silverman said it’s “safe to assume the Library will continue for some time.” But those who don’t want to wait can check out The Daily Show’s virtual 3D tour here.

@sammynickalls sammy.nickalls@adweek.com Sammy Nickalls is a freelance writer and the former departments editor at Adweek.