In a clip from Comedy Central special ‘The Fake News With Ted Nelms,’ Ed Helms plays an anchor who gets punched in the face and wants his correspondent to get closer to the action. “Pics or it didn’t happen!”
Comedy Central

If you were to make a show that is literally about one of 2017’s biggest buzzwords, “fake news,” what would it look like?

That’s the question Ed Helms answers with Comedy Central’s special, The Fake News With Ted Nelms, airing Wednesday (10 ET/PT).

No, the show does not cover “fake news” the way President Trump defines the term, Helms says, as “news that someone doesn’t like and doesn’t fit their worldview.” Instead, the special, hosted by Helms’ alter ego Nelms, features entirely made-up stories. 

But legitimate fake news can be challenging, says Helms, 43, a former Daily Show correspondent (2002-06) who’s returning the network, if only briefly, after starring in The Office and The Hangover films. 

Trump’s “behavior is so extreme that he’s made it kind of hard for comedians to find silliness, because things that might have seemed a year ago kind of ridiculous and silly are now part of reality,” says Helms. “Really, that’s just an empirical assessment of what’s happening (and making) joke writing trickier right now.”

So how do effectively you write jokes during a time when reality is sometimes stranger than fiction?

Well, first, you watch a lot of TV news.

“When we were writing the show, we were just watching the news constantly,” Helms says. “We’re making up all of the news on our show, but we’re presenting it in a way that we’re kind of making fun of how the news operates and how the news presents information. (We’re) watching the news to see how CNN is sensationalizing or Fox is spinning something or NBC is exaggerating something.”

And then, writers just pulled jokes out of left field for “kind of completely standalone ridiculousness,” Helms says. “It’s very kind of Monty Python that way.”

An example of the thorough-research-meets-absurdist humor? In one “breaking news” segment, after he pauses to burp, Nelms announces that officials have identified a bombing suspect.

”But before we reveal…