True Laughing Matter

The True Laughing Matter

As with every perfect storm, there are always the ideal conditions that allow for complete exploitation and bring such a force into strengthened new heights.

This permits such onlookers to watch in rapt amazement as to what is unfolding before them.

A blossoming campaign environment can be viewed purely as a clean slate to a promising political future, whereas the very same setting can serve as optimal stomping grounds for legions of political satirists.

Some of the most notable individuals in political satire, such as John Stewart, Steven Colbert and Seth MacFarlane, have boosted themselves into household name status simply by producing this certain breed of entertainment based on poking fun at mainstream journalism. Although it never hurts to see things from a different perspective, or in a lighter tone for that matter, is it quite possible that society might be taking such jokes a little to far? Furthermore, are such attitudes being developed by this entertainment hungry audience that might, quite frankly, be creating a self-imposed blindness to new information?

Megan Fielding, a first year student, personally believes this is not the case. “I don’t think people rely too heavily on comedian’s opinions, though I believe to some extent they do. In the end though, they are entertainers and the viewers should be able to formulate their own opinions,” states Fielding.

However according to Professor Nogueira, a Communication professor,  t is very possible that people are, in fact, relying  heavily on these comedians and are allowing their jokes to become their true opinions. “There has been a lot of research done concerning Steven Colbert and John Stewart and the effect they have on the younger people, in particular college age kids, who get their information solely from those sources,” says Nogueira.

Nogueira goes on to mention that the stories not reported by these outlets aren’t being heard by the very audience that relies on them to obtain their data, therefore making the viewers opinion very one dimensional.

First year student Shannon Messler expresses that, although she does enjoy watching such programs, she feels that the very shows are only popular because of the fact that it takes advantage of the public’s awareness and need for distraction. “If I’m just watching television I will usually find myself watching shows like the Colbert Report instead of the news because it is more entertaining. But that’s all it is, it’s entertainment, not an actual news source,” replies Messler.

It is this onslaught of interpreted opinion amongst the masses that is truly making the struggle for the people’s support in politics all the more difficult. Even though the jokes themselves might not change the viewer’s mind in the end, the negatives being ridiculed are going to brought to the forefront of the observer’s mind. As stated by Professor Phillips Anderson, the assistant professor of applied communications here on campus, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a candidate’s utter demise. “I don’t know if comedians can really make or break a candidate. Dan Quayle was relentlessly mocked, but he did become Vice President. But he did not have much of a political career after that,” says Phillips.

So although there are the cases, such as the one regarding Dan Quayle, that prove the power of applied political satire can be overcome in battles, it can be said that comprehensively, political comedy ended up trumping in the war. Is it possible then for someone to protect t hem selves from being too heavily persuaded, whether it be consciously or sub consciously, by such a provocative source?

Both Nogueira and Phillips-Andersen agree that getting another opinion, fact checking, looking up the sources and research overall hold the key in doing so. “In order for someone to be an active participant in that knowledge they have to go out and get more background,” Nogueira claims. 

All in all, granting the truth that this category of comedy is easy to manipulate as one’s own opinion, it also proves a productive method in approaching a slippery issue such as politics. “The benefits of using humor to approach tough issues is that  it can allow the audience to feel more relaxed, recognize incongruities in their beliefs, and give them a new perspective on a significant issue,” admits Phillips Andersen.

As with anything good in the world, political humor is great in small doses. If one chooses to rely singularly on that source alone however, then great caution must be taken to avoid seeing the world and its issues with faulty eyes and a lack luster understanding to match.