power of political satire

I like political satire. No. I LOVE political satire. When the daily news overwhelms, I find blessed relief in the wit and biting analyses of Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. I still miss my daily dose of Jon Stewart yet am filled with gratitude that he introduced us to John Oliver.

Some might dismiss these rants as angry, left-wing political commentary masquerading as a stand-up comedy routine. But it is more. So much more.

Bee, Colbert, Meyers, Stewart and Oliver (and, of course, their writers) all exhibit a depth of intelligence and masterful vocabulary that is often missing from the 24-7 news cycle; and even more absent in the superficial, double-speak of many politicians today. Want some serious fact-checking? Check out Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Want some serious analyses of issues often over-looked by the media? Tune in to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Comedy intertwined with solid journalism is a winning recipe for bringing a message to the masses.

And then there’s Saturday Night Live.

The current cast of SNL, after an understandable period of post-election mourning, has stepped up to the plate and double-downed on its critique of the Trump administration. This past Saturday’s episode was satiric brilliance and Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of press secretary Sean Spicer stole the show.

Trump is extremely thin skinned, a common characteristic of narcissists. He is known for ignoring more important issues of the day while spending time on Twitter attacking those who dare insult him. He is not a fan of SNL nor a fan of Alec Baldwin and his spot-on Trump impression. But, it seems, Trump watches SNL. Which gives SNL an enviable amount of power. They have the ear, the eye, and the attention of the president. Not too shabby!

What to do with this power?

Considering Trump’s misogynistic history, having a woman impersonate one of the president’s men had a surprisingly powerful effect. A deliciously tempting suggestion is circulating online this morning, calling out for other women actors to join Melissa McCarthy’s Spicer role on SNL. Meryl Streep as Trump? Rosie O’Donnell as Steve Bannon? Ellen Degeneres as Mike Pence?

Now that would be must see TV!

Back in 2011, Melissa Musick Nussbaum wrote a wonderful article for the National Catholic Reporter titled We laugh because we know who we are. She describes perfectly the power of humour over ego.

The dictator’s goal is to be recognized as God, even if God over only this little house, that small nation, or the most modest parish. Dictators work hard at building and maintaining the illusion of godhood. Laughter destroys the illusion. (Melissa Musick Nussbaum)


5 thoughts on “power of political satire

  1. I agree completely that SNL and others are doing us a great service by showing us that “The Donald” has no clothes.
    Nothing could be more embarrassing for a narcissistic personality than not to be taken seriously in their pomposity.
    A happy ending to this administration might come from a pathological overreaction on his part that would hasten his impeachment without causing significant damage to our democracy.
    I would hope that many who voted for him out of frustration with DC politicians who did not address their declining circumstances, would now be awakened with a sense of buyer’s remorse.

      1. The emperor has no clothes, not even a “bathrobe”! I anxiously await the Alex Baldwin skit of the “emperor” strutting around the Oval Office…. Not!
        Just read that Sarah Palin is being considered for ambassadorship to Canada. Oh my. If true, we can add Rick Mercer, “This Hour…”, “The Irrelevant Show” and “This is That”…. to the list.

      2. Hubby and I listened to a Bill Maher podcast while driving to the city. It struck us that the comedy writers have an easy time of it at the moment. You just have to repeat the stories of the day with all the bizarre statements and comments. The satire is writing itself! Sarah Palin? I saw it on Twitter. Ugh. My response?

        God, NO! Seriously. Please. God. No! Amen!


  2. In a sense good comedy writers actually have a more challenging task. It has to reveal underlying themes and sometimes educate, bring the audience beyond the easy-obvious and then reveal the irony/humour/bathos/pathos. Compare “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” which slap-sticks the obvious, with “SNL”. I like “22 Min” but you would have to turn off the TV not to get their stuff. Example, the “SNL” depiction of Kelly Ann Conway in a “Basic Instinct” skit, on the other hand, was multi-leveled and devestatingly on mark. The “insight” into the frenetic fanaticism that seems to drive the person and persona of Conway pops more of a smile of “aha”. It’s value was not its “funny” as it was “too true” as-in-a-famous-scary-example of despicable behaviour that we may not have picked-up on otherwise. The psychosis of the Sharon Stone/Conway is revealed as trumpism itself. So frightening that it sticks….

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