"There's no doubt that all this       comedy  has an impact," Blitzer adds. "Elections are won and lost on public perceptions in that kind of popular culture."

   "Late-night comedy has never been so subtly powerful. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that a full 47 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 often gleaned information about the presidential campaign from late-night comedy shows, like those of Jay Leno and David  Letterman. And the late-nights' appeal is not limited to younglings; more than a quarter of all adults get campaign news from those programs".


  "The Bush and Gore campaigns monitor the late-nights for something they don't get from pundits: vibe. "We read the transcripts of those shows and watch them," says Chris Lehane, the Gore campaign's press secretary. "The monologues are evidence of when a certain story really breaks through. If it makes it onto Leno or Letterman, it means something."

Marshell Sella
     NY Times Article

50-60s |   70s  |   80s |   90s |   present    

A View into History
 Using Political Humor

Political Humor

This webpage is the baby of CYOU Group Awesome.  In it, we'll explore how Political Humor affects and represents different historical events, concentrating on the last 50 years.

You can browse by era by clicking the buttons to the right.  Reading for the week is on the right of every webpage, consisting of different articles and cartoons.   Related links contain video from Saturday Night Live and other sources, audio from NPR, as well as more cartoons.

    We studied political humor from the 1960s to the present.  In the past fifty years, political humor has become the cynical jester of the times. Political humor parallels every president we studied, as well as shows the liberal viewpoint of the times.  The change in political humor reflects the change in culture and politics, and the increasing ability to attack a politician's personal characteristics and actions.  The line between the public and private lives of leaders has been blurred, as political satirists consider everything fair game. Political humor also pushes the conventional boundaries of our society. Political humor is increasing in popularity, through such venues as the Daily Show, the Tonight Show, the Onion, and thousands of websites. There is a noticable corrolation between increases personal vindictive attacks on the president's character with times of rising civil unrest.

Regarding Political Cartoonists:

    A political cartoonist has incredible influence- a theme we can see through history, as the New York State legislature considered passing anti-cartoon laws to decrease cartoonist Thomas Nast’s influence in the turn of the century,  (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/artwood/aw-political.html) as General Patton tried to censor Bill Mauldin’s military cartoons, and as Nixon had cartoonists watched and placed on his enemies list.

Even President Ford recognized the power of political cartoons.  “President Gerald Ford acknowledged the stature of the comic strip in the 1970s saying "There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington; televison, the print media, and Doonesbury - not necessarily in that order.” 3

   Most importantly, political cartoonists present meaning behind events in a form that is easily understood, and quickly digested.  Thus, politics become relevant to the masses.  (an excerpt from D'Angelo's paper)

    Furthermore, cartoonists have much more leeway than journalists, as this excerpt from Dr. Parker's webpage shows.   "Cartoons are, by some, considered to "invoke not only truth but a higher artistic truth, above the ethical parameters of the printed word" (Fischer, 16), even if the facts are not consistent with their pictorial representation of the situation. Political cartoons have "the ethical imperative which lifts transitory journalism into transcending art" (Fischer, 3). Their methods of effecting public opinion and "alter[ing] for the better the course of human events" qualifies them to make statements in picture that would be considered false if they were statements in print." (http://www2.truman.edu/parker/research/cartoons.html) 
Therefore, political cartoons and other forms of political humor can show the 'truth' behind  historical events without having to play the 'fact' game- and as Nixon showed, facts can be misguiding.


"NPR: All Songs Considered: Political Satire and Song"

How Political Satire Shapes People's Opinions

Satirists Comment on their profession

document of the week

  Use the menu at the top of the page to navigate through the decades.

On the homework page, you'll find the Film, writing assignment, review questions and lecture outline.

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Editing and Re-Design by Caroline D'Angelo