I thought we would start the new year with what this group does best: Comedy. It’s been ten years since social scientists started noticing that young people get much of their news from comedy sources like the Daily Show. Sure, political comedy goes back a long way. Will Rogers. Lenny Bruce. Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford falling down the stairs.
But, to me at least something seems different now. Maybe it’s our wired world, our ultra-cynical times, or just one more effect of our hyper-polarization. But, I think political comedy is more influential as a source of news and a shaper of public opinion than in the past. There is some research to back that up.
So, below are some articles on the “Daily Show Effect,” and other ways that political comedy may be shaping our politics. It would be way too ironic for me to lecture ponderously on the topic of comedy. So, I’ll just open our meeting on Monday with a five minute set, I mean, presentation summarizing a few of the major findings cited in the articles below. The most important point will be about – as always with me –how much the world has changed in just the last 10 years. Short, punchy, sketch comedy bits and late night one-liners fit perfectly into the new wired, video-centered world of young people. Whether that is a good thing or whether political comedy just makes them more cynical and/or biased is not yet clear, from what I’ve read.
Discussion Questions –
- What are the major sources of political comedy these days?
- What effects does comedy have on people’s political knowledge and opinions? Are they greater for some types of people; i.e., young Americans, liberals, less well-informed voters?
- What about comedy’s effects on the politicians themselves? Do they change what they say and do at all because of it?
- What does the success of political comedy shows say about the quality of the news media and the public’s trust in it?
- How biased is today’s political comedy? Is it naturally progressive/liberal because comedy is inherently iconoclastic and anti-establishment?
- Who is your favorite political comedian? What have you learned from him/her? What have you learned that does more than reinforce what you already believe?
- How does political comedy influence U.S. politics? Recommended.
- Late night TV comedians keep getting more and more political.
- “The Daily Show Effect” is real.
- The Stephen Colbert Effect, too.
- Young people gravitate to sketch comedy as a way of learning about politics because they spend so much time watching on-line videos as they surf between media platforms/outlets. Comedy is quick and easily digestible. Recommended.
- Bias: Is there a liberal bias to political comedy? And, where are the conservative comedians? Recommended.
- [UPDATE: If you really want to learn all about this subject, here is a long dry (pdf) academic paper on the effects of Colbert and Stewart on their viewers, listing all the major findings of past studies.]
Just for fun – a few of my favorite political comedy sites and videos.
- Wanna get all the late night comedians’ jokes? Here is a list if them all, updated daily.
- The Borowitz Report, Funny Or Die,
- Jon Stewart’s legendary, side-splitting parodies of Glenn Beck.
- My favorite ever headline at The Onion. From the day after Obama was first elected. You’ll thank me.
NEXT WEEK: What if criminality can be predicted? Dean’s awesome idea for a topic.