By: An Uong
When walking through the exhibition hall that is mass media, on the right, there are scandalous photos of various celebrities on the downhill ride to the loss of their dignity.
To the left, there appears to be piles of adorable, fuzzy animals ready to be gawked at for hours. A bit further down is the nonsensical chatter of faceless online strangers.
A cobwebbed corner is specifically reserved for legitimate news, something many of America’s youth miss when wandering through a space saturated with popular culture.
One cannot miss, however, a growing stage dedicated to political comedy shows, namely Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report,” which are both hosted on Comedy Central.
Stewart and Colbert ingeniously satirize political happenings, usually with a searing hilarity that offends the more conservative population of viewers. After all, for as many people as there are who sincerely enjoy their political witticisms, there are just as many who wince at the borderline-crudeness with which they highlight the faults of society.
Government teacher Catherine Duggan supports “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” noting that the hosts are comics first, political pundits second. Duggan is known to share with her Government class notable clips from the shows to help the students understand certain political concepts. Unfortunately, there is strong opposition against using clips from these shows in classrooms.
Several months ago in Eureka, Illinois, high school teacher Rhett Felix was suspended for showing segments of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” to his Government class. He was fired based on claims that he was exposing students to material involving obscene and sexual references to Herman Cain’s affairs. In that case, perhaps Government teachers, whose roles involve helping students stay updated, should not assist students with that endeavor at all. The parents’ reactions are no surprise, given that the allegations came from a highly conservative town.
There is nothing objectionable with using these sources as a minor supplement to the curriculum. All of the scandal-affiliated information that Colbert and Stewart pick at are often already plastered across broadcast channels, newspapers, and websites. Besides, one could easily read about Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment charges and extramarital relations in our own American Anthem textbook. If others are worried about the bias in the shows, they must remember that comedy is only as serious as one makes it out to be.
“It doesn’t matter whether they are liberal or not,” Duggan said, “[They] stay on top of issues and talk about [topics] kids would be interested in, with a cool sense of irony.”
The convenient part about this characteristic is that the political information they present piques the interest of viewers, leading the audience to develop a desire for awareness. Even though most of the jokes are purely funny due to their clever delivery, to understand the depth of the commentary requires knowledge of current events.
The greatest benefit of political comedy shows would be that “they make politics fun” Richard Campbell (’13) said. Teenagers, who are fixated on school-affiliated duties, need for the material to be delivered cleverly, in an understandable manner.
When criticizing Political Action Committees (PACs), groups that raise money for the campaign that they support, Colbert and Stewart collaborated to emphasize the plentiful amount of loopholes that leave a big gaping hole for politicians to cheat through.
The hilarious skit involved a fantastical ritual in which the duo held hands to transfer leadership of Colbert’s “PAC” over to Stewart. Throughout the process, they kept mentioning that it would not be affiliated with Colbert, and that the unlimited amount of money donated would be used without bias. Of course, anyone who can register satire would understand that they were making it very clear how affiliated and biased PACs really are.
As insulting as some might find these late-night shows to be, they have drawn attention to political events that would otherwise be looked over by apathetic Americans.
With so much humor injected into these shows, many fear the trivialization of politics. Every faulty step, even if minute, is highlighted mercilessly, such as Herman Cain’s infamous “third-person” diction used when he defended himself against sexual assault claims. It was mocked by Colbert, and in all honesty, I laughed quite heartily at it.
These shows are outspoken about the flaws in our government, which makes many individuals fear negative repercussions. If one were being fed jokes about conservatives and the failures of our system, the logical assumption would be that the person would then develop a very biased perspective.
With extremely leftist commentary, given the rather interesting set of Republican candidates, and the immense power that these two men alone wield, it makes sense as to why some would feel threatened by their influence. Perhaps there would be a better balance if there were sincerely humorous right-wing comics, but as Duggan points out, “there aren’t any.”
Even though people have a tendency to be swayed one way or the other, it still remains an individual’s responsibility to develop his or her own views, without letting these shows dictate their political beliefs.
They are the shameless comedic voices of our cynical society, and that is why so many of us continually go to them for both updates and entertainment.