Now, I’ll be the first to admit it, I have never been a political person. I have never advocated for anything, I barely watched the news or read political articles. However, when 2016 election in USA came about, everything changed in the matter of days. I began reading, watching and researching about the past, present and the future of politics. I was invested in the candidates and genuinely cared who won for the first time in my life, and the interesting part was the fact I wasn’t the only one because American politics has its own specific tactics of pulling us in.
Everyone remembers the election of 2016- the one between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, right? That was truly a monumental event that changed the history of politics and made an enormous impact on American society and the world at large. When I first saw it, didn’t think much of it. I probably turned the channel and began watching something else. But it caught up to me on YouTube when a certain SNL video of a presidential debate was trending. I couldn’t help but wonder what is it that drew in millions of views, so I watched it and quickly realized why people resonated with it. It was certainly hilarious, I won’t argue with that, but it wasn’t just that. It wasn’t only funny in a silly sort of way, it was also clever and funny and witty and funny; it was brilliantly executed in a way that everyone could easily understand, which brings me to my next point and that is- political satire.
Political satire is tool used by a multitude of comedians, such as Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers, who have perfected the art of covering major political events. The reason why satire is so effective is because it has the ability to cut through endless debates, one may often see on the news, put an end to several talking points and explain the facts in the simplest, most condensed manner possible, whereas journalists typically fail to do so because they have the obligation to stick to the script, use incredibly complicated vocabulary and exercise extreme politeness, all of which goes out the window for comedians. Comedians have the liberty to say what they want and how they want; they are not held accountable for stirring the pot, because, frankly, that is exactly what are supposed to be doing. Political satire, when utilized correctly, makes us retain information quicker and think critically about what the politicians are saying. It isn’t only enough for satire to be funny, it has to be able provide an unbiased opinion by pointing out the ridiculous and absurd parts of politicians’ statements, as well.
Despite its recent popularity, political satire has existed practically as long as politics itself. Whenever there was a political situation to criticize, satirists where close and ready for action. Greeks, being the expressive, theatrical people, took satire to the stage, imitating and mocking different presidents.
In France, there was a pamphlet entitled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu) by Maurice Joly in 1864, which attacked the political ambitions of Napoleon III by using the literary device of a dialogue between two diabolical plotters in Hell, the historical characters of Machiavelli and Montesquieu, to cover up a direct, and illegal, attack on Napoleon’s rule. German philosopher Nietzsche was also a keen satirist who was known for aiming at Lutheranism. An example of satire in the US would be the comics in the New Yorker, satirizing politicians and government officials.
Political satire may have been a product of the past, but it has never quite thrived the way it does today due to the fact that modern satire doesn’t alienate anybody, it is accessible to everyone, no matter if they are politically inclined or not because it creates a format that is palatable for most viewers. Saturday Night Live is especially excellent at connecting with its audience through using catchy phrases and pop culture references which appeal both to the to the younger and older viewers because one does not need to know about them to understand them to find them funny. Their fantastic cast of talented comedians from Kate McKinnon, Alec Baldwin, to Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Larry David and many more is what amplified the show’s impact. Additionally, they also brought politics thorough their sketches, but also through a fictional news segment hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che, called Weekend Update. Their success, apart from having an already established platform, was partly due to their ability to connect with their audience by presenting a content that wasn’t intricate or threatening. People were not worried about having an in-depth knowledge about certain topics, they were only there to laugh and through laughter they also began forming various opinions and arriving to their own conclusions, because it is one of those shows that makes you laugh in the moment without overwhelming you with unnecessary details, but once it ends, it sticks with you for days, and that is precisely the example of an effective political satire.
Ultimately, political satire does not only serve the viewers but also the politicians because it points out their faults, mistakes and slip ups and shows them what they need to work on. It gives them an insight on what their voters are looking for in a candidate and it helps them further promote their campaigns. Although, satire can be sometimes seen as being overly partisan, most of the time it is simply delivering good rational thinking and that is what the news often lacks. At the end of the day, all that people really want is the plain and simple truth.
Sources: When Does Political Satire Go Too Far?-
Comedians have figured out the trick to covering Trump-
Impact of Political Satire Is No Joke-