The resurgence of political comedy

BRAD BARKET / GETTY IMAGES FOR COMEDY CENTRAL

John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee add much-needed humor in wake of new administration

Over the past few years, political comedians like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah have had tremendous success with their social commentary. With the Trump and Clinton campaigns, not a day passed without something new to cover. The jokes practically wrote themselves with the sheer ridiculousness of the past election.

Karma Waltonen, a senior lecturer in the writing program, is passionate about the necessity of political comedians.

“One small upside of Trump is that political comedy is getting this resurgence,” Waltonen said. “It is frustrating because Trump is in office but also great because we have a new civil rights movement.”

John Oliver and Samantha Bee both have weekly half-hour shows (Last Week Tonight on HBO and Full Frontal on TBS, respectively) in which they present in-depth comedic analyses.

Their shows use long-form journalism, and that means they are able to inform the public about topics that generally wouldn’t be covered by traditional news, using comedy to make the material accessible and easier to understand. They make fun of themselves which takes away the sting from Twitter trolls. Whenever Oliver says something he knows will have backlash, he digs at himself to soften the blow, and Bee does the same.

“For this generation what we need are shows like 60 Minutes with humor and sarcasm to actually take in this information,” Waltonen said.

Peter Swanson, a third-year political science public service major, said that John Oliver is his favorite political comedian since he covers topics not addressed by news media. Oliver also utilizes an incredible research team to produce well-researched, informative comedic pieces, in Swanson’s opinion.

“Twenty minutes is a solid amount of time to get enough substance across and short enough to keep people’s attention,” Swanson said.

Kyle Patterson, a fourth-year communication major and a member of the UC Davis Stand-up Comedy Club, believes humor can ease people into topics that make them uncomfortable or scared.

“If you can joke about something you can take it less serious[ly] and if you take it less serious[ly] you don’t panic and can actually tackle the the issue at hand,” Patterson said.

Patterson thinks a neutral and holistic approach is the best way to approach these times and thinks that Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, does this best. To Patterson, Noah’s position as a South African comedian coupled with his ability to joke about topics that do not necessarily offend or polarize people is one of his comedic strengths.

“He is a lovable outsider looking in on our community,” Patterson said.

Political comedy is a necessity right now. These shows are an accessible way for people who do not like watching full news programs to learn about current events and the important news of the week. They are certainly not new, but they are much needed, especially in these political times.
Written by: CaraJoy Kleinrock — arts@theaggie.org