Political comedy: topical, edgy and quick to age—but how does it affect the discourse?
The Center for Civic Engagement is bringing East Carolina University professor Dr. Jody C. Baumgartner to discuss the effects of political humor in “Political Humor and its Impact on American Life” on Tuesday, March 5.
“The idea behind the event is to provide an opportunity for campus and community to come together for a conversation about politics generally, but in a different way by examining different dynamics,” said David Dulio, director of the Center for Civic Engagement. “We are, in our politics today, inundated with and dominated by negativity, criticism, scandal, you name it. What we can do with this event is allow people to come together as a community to talk about politics in a way that—hopefully—is funny and shows people we can come together, even if we have differing opinions on important issues.”
Baumgartner, according to Dulio, is one of the original researchers of political humor.
“[Baumgartner] has probably done the most research on the topic, so there is really nobody better to come and talk about it,” Dulio said.
According to Baumgartner, the 7 p.m. event in Banquet Room B of the Oakland Center will be focused on satirical “televisual” media from the last 10-12 years. This keeps the humor relevant to college students, though Baumgartner said there may be some content from the 2000s thrown in.
“There’s a lot [of political comedy] out there, but the stuff almost everybody who follows political humor—and plenty of [people] who don’t—would be familiar with is the stuff that is on television or the television stuff that makes its way to YouTube,” Baumgartner said. “Generally late night television political humor, which includes the weeknight shows— [Jimmy] Fallon, [Jimmy] Kimmel, [Seth] Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee—as well as Saturday Night Live.”
While political cartoons are a commonplace example of political humor in grade schools, Baumgartner plans to only touch on cartoons in passing.
“The trouble with political cartoons is that they are not always funny,” Baumgartner said. “And to be completely fair political satire certainly is not necessarily always funny…[but] where else would you talk about [political cartoons], unless it was a class of political humor?”
While Baumgartner acknowledges the textual and musical forms of political comedy such as the book “Thank You For Smoking” and the band “The Capitol Steps,” Baumgartner believes that the “televisual” comedy is the most relevant form.
Although the comedy is the draw, it should not be forgotten what the focus of the night is: how the comedy affects people.
“At the end of the day,” Baumgartner said, “hopefully there’s gonna be enough stuff shown so even if people think it is a lecture, it won’t be too painful. We’ll be watching a lot of funny TV.”