Sunday Reading: The Power of Political Satire
Comedians and humorists today do more than simply comment upon politics; they help shape it. This week, we’re bringing you pieces about the sustained influence of satire on political life. In “How Jokes Won the Election,” Emily Nussbaum explores the effect of right-wing memes and political humor during the last Presidential campaign. Adrian Chen examines how a television show in Nigeria is attempting to use comedy to strengthen democracy; Louis Menand describes the evolution of parody and considers how our need to make fun of ourselves may be hardwired. Ian Parker profiles Armando Iannucci, the creator and showrunner of “Veep,” and Eric Schlosser analyzes the political realities behind “Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy about nuclear war, from 1964. Finally, in “Is It Funny Yet?,” Tad Friend chronicles the career of the comedian Jon Stewart and recounts how “The Daily Show” became both a pop-culture phenomenon and a political force. These pieces capture the power that humor has to change how we think—and vote.
“At a time when politicians describe their opponents as enemies of the state, a comedy of office missteps and compromised principles—even one with relentlessly profane dialogue, such as ‘Veep’—is a diversion.”
“More than fifty years after its release, ‘Dr. Strangelove’ seems all the more brilliant, bleak, and terrifyingly on the mark.”
“Donald Trump was that hostile-jaunty guy in the big flappy suit, with the vaudeville hair, the pursed lips, and the glare. There’s always been an audience for that guy.”
“The history of standup comedy in Nigeria, as with cartooning, is that of a deep-rooted culture finding resonance with a foreign art form.”
“Jon Stewart manages to skewer cultural waste, arrogance, and cupidity without making his viewers feel ashamed.”
“In the making-fun-of-others department, the highest cultural rung—it is sometimes regarded as an art form—is parody.”