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When Comedy Becomes Political And Politics Become Funny

From fake news to animated sitcoms, satire television has become an important vehicle for an entertaining, and often informative, take on the latest happenings from the political arena. So what does today's brand of satire tell us about the current state of politics, of television and of citizenship?

Jeffrey Jones, an associate professor in Old Dominion University's Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, is the co-editor of a new book, "Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era" (NYU Press, 2009), that considers the symbiotic relationship between politics and comedy in the contemporary genre of satire television through its collection of essays. Programs discussed include "The Daily Show," "South Park" and "The Colbert Report," among others.

Jones co-wrote the book's opening essay, "The State of Satire, the Satire of State," and contributed the essay, "With All Due Respect: Satirizing Presidents from 'Saturday Night Live' to 'Lil' Bush,'" which looks at the history of presidential satire and caricatures on television.

"Since the mid-1970s, 'Saturday Night Live (SNL)' has regularly processed presidential politics for viewers, offering interpretations that structured how images of the president were filtered through popular culture," writes Jones.

He further notes, "The shows [Comedy Central's 'That's My Bush' and 'Lil' Bush'] that bookend the Bush presidency, however, offer a broader and more critical narrative frame for making meaning of the president as politician and office holder," and adds: "These shows lead us to rethink the necessary place, role and function of satire in contemporary political culture and how such an important role has generally been absent from television for much of the medium's existence."

Jones is the author of "Entertaining Politics: New Political Television and Civic Culture" (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), a book examining humorous political talk shows on television such as "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." The second edition of "Entertaining Politics" is scheduled to appear in August 2009. Jones is also co-editor of "The Essential HBO Reader" (University Press of Kentucky, 2008).

The book is available for sale at the University Village Bookstore.

This article was posted on: June 15, 2009

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