With politics so serious, there’s nothing to do but laugh

Americans love to laugh, especially when things are the most serious. And with a hotly-contested presidential election looming, political satire has never been more popular.

Serious topics have rarely been too taboo for jokes. Jonathan Swift famously suggested eating babies in his 1729 essay A Modest Proposal. Joseph Heller made a mockery of war in Catch-22. That politics would become the butt of jokes is no surprise: the often dysfunctional American political system usually seems like it would be better suited for a sitcom than for actually governing a nation.

In 2011, Jon Stewart’s news-satire The Daily Show averaged more viewers than any cable news show other than The O’Reilly Factor. And with Election Day only two weeks away, it’s prime-time for political satire. Comedy Central’s coverage of the Republican National Convention actually pulled in more viewers than any of the actual news networks, and a Facebook page mocking Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” quote from the second presidential debate has over 350,000 ‘likes.’ Even when it comes to things we care about, there apparently is just about nothing that is no laughing matter. And I have to say, this year’s election has not disappointed when it comes to humor.

The normal suspects like Stewart and Colbert have had plenty of fun with things. But there have been some new kids on the block, like Soul Pancake’s ‘Kid President’.


The Gregory Brothers, who produced Auto-Tune the News, have been on fire with their ‘songified’ debate highlights (warning, some strong language in this one):


And The Gregory Bros and the New York Times collaborated for another one: in “Patriot Games,” Romney and Obama square off to see who can drop the most buzzwords in this mash-up of their nomination acceptance speeches:


Maybe we’re gluttons for suffering: unsatisfied with the news being depressing enough, even our humor has to have that tinge of black comedy. Maybe there’s something cathartic about making light about the same national issues that we’re intensely stressed about.

Whatever the reason, the Long Center’s presentation of political satirists Capitol Steps this Thursday couldn’t be more timely. If anyone in the political satire business knows just how tragically funny the American political system can be, it would be them – most of the group started out as congressional staffers, and they’ve been making fun of their old jobs and former bosses professionally since 1981.

Capitol Steps have done their share of bipartisan bashing this election season. Here’s their take on the first presidential debate:


So as we bring in a bunch of political satirists less than two weeks before this heated election, it’s not that we’re not taking the election seriously – it’s just that sometimes things are so serious, there isn’t anything to do but laugh.

– Nick Curry, Development Intern
The Long Center

Capitol Steps will be at the Long Center on October 25. Click here for more information and tickets.

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