Political Satire in the US

By: Marta A.

Lately, blending comedy and politics has gained popularity, as it is becoming particular to the many satirical shows, such as Last Week Tonight and The Daily Show. Due to this, political satire is a new hot topic that is being questioned by many. From the long-debated freedom of speech argument, to the impact shows have on the younger demographic – a lot can be said on this topic. For this reason, through out this article I will be giving my opinion on political satire, as a young foreigner who enjoys following US politics as well as watching John Oliver and Trevor Noah, among others, merge humor and the news.

One of the many criticisms political-satire shows face, is that viewers are using these shows as a news source. It has been argued that satire should not be a source people gain knowledge about the world from. Various hosts of these shows have made clear that they are neither news sources nor journalists but they host shows whose purpose is entertaining the audience. They also make the argument that to understand the comedy and the jokes made, one must follow politics and know about the news before hand. The use of sarcasm as well as the implicit jokes, mean that the audience must have prior knowledge about the context. This has also increased certain people’s interest in politics and has encouraged them to follow the news as more people watch political satire. To sum up, one shouldn’t just consume political satire as the shows are not news sources but we must understand that their popularity is increasing bringing more people closer to politics.

So yes, if you understand the context you can understand the jokes and see how shows can be entertaining but some say the shows go too far. This is where the first amendment debate could be argued as the political satire shows have a first amendment right to criticize the government, yet, arguably, in some cases statements made cross the line and become offensive. This is not only a criticism of political satire, but of satire and comedy in general. In fact, stand up comedians also commonly face the same criticism. For this reason I don’t believe there is one perfect answer, which is the conclusion of most freedom of speech debates as well as all debates in general. We must keep in mind the audience at all times and how they could be offended but at the same time to a certain extent we must retain our right to speak freely.

In conclusion, the best thing is to consume a variety of news forms as well as political satire if one enjoys it, but it is undeniable that political satire is having an increase impact on society. As with most comedic acts there will always be criticism of offensive language or tone, but since there is no perfect system and we all have different opinions we cannot censor all satire. Producers must be responsible in choosing what jokes are delivered and what language is used, instead.

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