Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On a lighter note...

One topic that has been on discussion in the U.S media lately is sexism regarding political candidates, in this with everyone's favorite Alaskan bear hunter, Governor Palin (yeah yeah, I know we're all getting a little sick of her at this point, but hey why not). Well there's a video that's been circulating the internet that many of you may have already seen, and if not you should see. It's from the Daily Show, talking about discrepancies in the news on the topic of sexism against female politicians, and hey, life's just a little bit better when you get your daily dose of Jon Stewart:

Now, while of course the topic of the video can bring up a whole slew of issues that have to do with politics and the media, one that I thought would be interesting to think about is the topic of humor, especially in relation to the news. I once watched an episode of the Daily Show where the conversation turned to the legitimacy of the Daily Show as a news source, to which Gore brought up the metaphor of the medieval court jester, which he reitereated in this Politico article: "What I do think is interesting is that some of the comedy news programs are so frequently more successful than the established news programs in presenting some of the more provocative — dare I say inconvenient — truths that emerge from the daily narrative of American democracy...Just as the court jester was sometimes the only truth sayer who could avoid having his head off in medieval feudal courts, a similar phenomenon appears to have emerged in our culture."

I personally think the role of humor in the media is fascinating, in that it has fewer limits than are other mediums. What do you guys think? Is humor an effective media tool in getting a message across, or is it just a joke that shouldn't be taken so seriously? Is there too much humor in the media, or maybe too little? Should Jon Stewart be taken less seriously than he is?

Oh, and Palin ranting is welcome as well :D


Jessica said...

I only have a few minutes to write something, but I think this is a really interesting subject and I'm glad you brought it up Yana! I wonder and propose to the rest of you a follow up question: Would comedy news programs work in countries outside the U.S.? Certainly in countries where freedom of speech is protected, a phenomenon like this might catch on, but is it appropriate or even imaginable in other countries or cultures to mix comedy, satire, and current events into one program like the Daily Show? Maybe something like that exists in other countries and I just haven't seen them yet. :)Just thinking outloud here.

To answer your last question, I don't think Jon Stewart should be taken less seriously than he is, not at all. Remember his infamous appearance on CNN's Crossfire when he completely tore apart the panelists for not doing their jobs as prominent political analysts and members of the media? Yeah, that show went off the air not too long after that incident. I think Jon Stewart has a unique role as an entertainer and journalist, and I like the Al Gore "medieval jester" analogy a lot. I think with the potential inundation of information that can come with 24/7 news, we need and celebrate someone (or several people-- don't forget Colbert!) as a media figure who can present a lighter side and to serious issues and current events.

nkakovitch said...

I think the effectiveness of humor in media is based largely on the audience that is viewing it. What these programs do is they provide a forum for discussion. Viewers of shows like The Daily Show or the Colbert Report watch it because they know they will be entertained, but they also watch it because they know the commentary that the "reporters" will provide will offer a different insight than the often systematic coverage of media.

The Onion, another comedic source of news has somewhat the same effect. This video titled "Obama Promises to stop America's Shitty jobs from going overseas" (http://www.theonion.com/content/video/obama_promises_to_stop_america_s) gets straight to the point of the issue without trying to sugarcoat the reality. The video is presented as if it was a legitimate news broadcast, even displaying a logo on the bottom right hand corner similar to that of CNN.

Politicians might not take the stories as seriously but they are beginning to realize that other people are affected by this.
Even clips that are meant to be humorous, like Paris Hilton's proposal for an energy plan in response to John McCain's "celebrity" ad, brought a significant amount of discussion from political leaders. What was meant in jest was taken to the next level by politicians. What is evident is that these types of media do have an impact on the public. They present issues that may not otherwise seem interesting an intriguing topic.

Kristina said...

I agree that the effectiveness of humor in media depends on the audience. An interesting article entitled “The News About Comedy: Young Audiences, The Daily Show and Evolving Notions of Journalism” indicates that “A recent poll by The Pew Research Center for People and the Press (2004) reported that 21% of 18-34 year-olds regularly learn about the presidential campaign from comedy shows, specifically Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Additionally, this article also shows that these numbers are much higher now then they were four years ago. In light of the statistics that show that only about 28% of young people aged 18-29 years read the newspaper, comedy shows might just be the next generation of “virtual learning classrooms” that educate the youth in America about politics and world and local affairs.
Of course not in every country can youth be educated through media humor and it would be interesting to find out what is the most common source for news that youths use in the countries that do not allow humor in their news broadcasting. (the TV or the newspaper or the internet?)

The Article can be found at: