The Political Influence of Satire

  1. Aristophanes once said, “Bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.”
  2. In our modern culture, it is the media that wets the minds of many writers on the classic sketch comedy series, Saturday Night Live.
  3. We get intoxicated by the way comedy in the media, particularly in political satire, when it makes us forget who we’re laughing at.
  4. The sketches enable viewers to watch political figures in a way that only a few shows ever dared to do. In the 1960s, during the height of political unrest, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In...
  5. And the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour could arguably be the forerunners of Saturday Night Live.
  6. After the Watergate scandals in the early 1970s, which forced the resignation of United States President Richard Nixon, along came Saturday Night Live. They began to make fun of Gerald Ford, who completed Nixon’s term in office.
  7. Chevy Chase, was the first comedian to take advantage of the public’s willingness to make fun of a president on the show.
  8. To illustrate how the public had accepted political parody after Watergate, NY Times Writer, Mark Leibovich, wrote in a 2006 editorial, “No one did more to solidify Mr. Ford’s unfortunate, and perhaps unfair, standing as the nation’s First Klutz than Mr.Chase…who routinely portrayed the president committing all manner of trips, flails and lurches.”
  9. It was just the beginning for SNL’s parodies of political figures. Former SNL cast member, Phil Hartman, continued the tradition by his lambasting of former president Ronald Regan. Hartman tried to expose in a comedic fashion, that Ronald Regan was not the wholesome, honest, and all-American man that he portrayed to be to the American public.
  10. In the 1986 sketch, Phil Hartman played Ronald Regan being interviewed by a reporter in the oval office denying that he knew anything regarding the Iran Contra Scandal. When the reporter left the room, his staff abruptly entered the office and he pulled down a map before giving orders to his staff on how to proceed.
  11. In the 1990’s Dana Carvey followed in the footsteps of Phil Hartman and Chevy Chase. His brilliant portrayal of a congenial George H.W. Bush, conveying to the American public that war in the Middle East was a global imperative. The whole world was involved, but the fact was, that we were the main participants.
  12. In the 1990 SNL sketch, Dana Carvey played George H.W. Bush delivering a speech on the war in Iraq. “This time our strike will be swift and deadly — dangerous." Carvey’s line was supposed to sound serious, but the ridiculous hand gestures he performed while speaking made it extremely difficult to not laugh.
  13. Of course, we can't forget the hilarious portrayal of Bill Clinton by Darrell Hammond...
  14. And one of my personal favorites...
  15. Seriously, who did Bush better than Will Ferrell?
  16. Nobody.
  17. After the September 11th attacks on New York City and The Pentagon, Saturday Night Live went on hiatus along with the popular political satire show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as well as Late-Night talk shows. The entertainment world took a pause from making fun of American political figures.
  18. The popular entertainment website, Vulture, spoke to former SNL writer, Mike Shur about what it was like to be funny again in a post-9/11 world.
  19. "The thing is people who argue issues often seem ridiculous because they often are ridiculous. It’s fun to make fun of them, but also that’s the joy of this country: You get to say it."
  20. "If people who hold extreme positions didn’t get to stand up in a public forum and express themselves, then this country isn’t functioning properly…The American ideal that everyone gets to say what they want whenever they want to is essentially the engine that keeps American comedy running." - Shur
  21. In 2008, we were introduced to Sarah Palin and political satire had risen again. This time, the sketches actually affected the outcome of the presidential election and we have “The Fey Effect” to thank for it.
  22. “According to the study, which surveyed 1,755 respondents, subjects who saw Fey’s Palin spoof had an 8.5 percent probability of approving McCain’s selection of Palin, while 75.7 percent disapproved. Of those who hadn’t seen the spoof, 16.1 percent approved of McCain’s choice and 60.1 percent disapproved” - Christian Schneider (NY Times)
  23. Needless to say, Donald Trump’s unexpected presence in politics over the past year, has given political satire more material than anyone has ever provided.
  24. In the fall of 2015, Donald Trump hosted SNL, which caused major concerns with dedicated viewers, especially since NBC dropped Donald Trump from their network due to racial comments.
  25. In conclusion, comedy helps us cope with the harsh reality of American politics.
  26. These political figures hold a great amount of power, so what's more fun than making fun of them?
  27. “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” - Dr. Seuss