Prof. says political satire shows provide more skeptical view than journalists, lack info depth
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Communication professor Paul Brewer said he thinks the reason people laugh at politically-based sketch shows such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” is because politics is a “shared cultural experience.”
“I think comedians provide useful and informative criticism,” Brewer said. “I think sometimes comedy can say things that more traditional outlets can’t say.”
Political satire provides a more skeptical view on politics than journalists do, but doesn’t give the depth of information news shows would, Brewer said. He said that does not mean fans of political comedy are less informed than those who stick to more traditional news media. The evidence he has seen suggests that people who watch political satire actually follow news more than those who don’t.
Communication professor Dannagal Young, whose research focuses on political humor, stated in an email message that she thinks political satires are beneficial for democracy.
“Colbert and Stewart attract young, politically interested viewers and often result in increased political discussion, participation and knowledge among those audiences,” Young said.
Senior Tyler Papineau, of the university’s Student Television Network comedy series “The Bi-weekly Show,” said he thinks balance is important for comedians in order to not show any bias, especially with politics.
“If we did our show and made fun of Romney and not Obama, it implies we are pro-Obama and pro-Democrat,” Papineau said.
Junior Nick Schug, a member of the comedy group The Rubber Chickens, said his group stays away from political comedy, but it does have an impact on the way he and other students think.
“It doesn’t make it this big, insurmountable, epic thing that is politics and all about these noble men fighting each other,” Schug said. “It shows you the seams sometimes.”
Freshman Paul Schochet said he will be voting in this election for the first time and “The Daily Show” has influenced his decision.
“’The Daily Show’ is my favorite show because it is funny how Jon Stewart always picks out real clips of the politicians and news anchors when they are at their worst,” Schochet said.
However, Brewer said the line between journalist and entertainer can be blurred, as shown by the recent debate between Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly. He said while Stewart is a comedian and O’Reilly is a talk show host, both of their shows serve as entertainment.
According to Brewer, political comedy on television is funny and informative, but some of the funniest content he has seen was from online sources which allows for more “ground up” political humor. He said with social media and YouTube becoming increasingly popular, it makes sense that people would use it as a platform to comment on politics.
College Humor’s “Mitt Romney Style,” one of many satirical videos online and a parody of the popular song “Gangnam Style,” has more than 700,000 likes on Facebook. The video addresses the public image issues Romney has faced recently, Brewer said.