About the blogger: Amy Bree Becker is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mass Communication & Communication Studies at Towson University. Her research considers the impact of political comedy and political entertainment on everyday life. She also studies public opinion and participation on controversial political issues like the same-sex marriage debate.
Professor Becker will share her top 5 political comedy picks each month.
Top 5 Political Comedy Highlights from July 2011
1. The Daily Show’s Armadebtdon 2011: It’s time to call Congress
The budget showdown and the debate over raising the country’s debt ceiling have captured the attention of Americans and late-night comedians this month. Stewart’s Armadebtdon 2011 series on The Daily Show has kept viewers entertained while offering critical commentary on the state of affairs and the negotiations -- or lack thereof -- happening in Washington DC. While there were a number of good clips in this series, the funniest was from the July 26th broadcast. In the segment, Jon Stewart reacts to President Obama’s address to the nation from the room where: “He took that long walk down we killed Bin Laden Lane.” The hammer and sickle bit and the fake removal of the “begolden” chairs were particularly funny. The clip also shows that Stewart takes great pains to make fun of politicians from both political parties – not just Republicans. And remember viewers -- it’s time to call Congress.
2. Michelle Bachmann and her Modern Family
Michelle Bachmann continues to attract attention. Even during July when the news was dominated by the News Corp scandal, violence in Norway, the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, and the ongoing debate over the budget and that now infamous debt ceiling, Bachmann still served as fodder for late-night comedians. On Fox News, Bachmann made the mistake of suggesting that President Obama has “choot-spa,” rather than chutzpah and news of her migraines prompted The Onion to post a story on July 27th with the headline: Bachmann Says Unexplained Blackouts From Which She Wakes Up Covered In Blood Won't Affect Ability To Lead. The best piece of the month on Bachmann: Jon Stewart and The Daily Show’s “Field of Dongs” clip from the July 13th episode. Comparing Marcus Bachmann to Cameron from Modern Family in the closing was certainly memorable, leaving a lasting image for viewers. As I’m writing this post, the clip from The Daily Show has just a quarter of a million views.
3. A Pie in the Face is Always Funny
There’s something really classically funny about getting a good ole “pie in the face” even if it’s just shaving cream in a foil plate. Perhaps it’s not so funny when you’re Rupert Murdoch and you find yourself testifying in front of the British Parliament. Needless to say, late-night political comedians including Stephen Colbert made the most of the pie situation. Colbert, Stewart, and even Jimmy Kimmel picked up on Murdoch’s wife -- Wendi Deng -- and her reflexive smackdown of the pie thrower, activist and comedian Johnny Marbles. The professor in me really likes Colbert’s clip the best, in part because of his satirical response to Marbles: “Activist and comedian, that makes no sense? You can't use comedy to make political points.” As Colbert and his fellow political satirists know: Oh yes you can!
4. @ladybigmac and @dogfart, the mainstream media’s Twitter Pundits
The mainstream media has embraced the Twitter platform, using the social networking service to share breaking news stories as they unfold in under 140 characters or less. The President has even started using Twitter and I was fortunate enough to be there for the Twitter Town Hall at the White House on July 6th when the President sent his first live tweet. The problem with Twitter, according to Jon Stewart on the July 27th broadcast of The Daily Show, is when cable news networks like CNN or Fox News rely on Twitter users like @ladybigmac or @dogfart for serious commentary on unfolding events. Stewart’s criticism of the cable news networks is well justified and offers yet another example of his frustration with the mainstream media. Stewart’s version of the @ladybigmac song is pretty entertaining and after all, isn’t it pretty hard to take commentary from @MrSwisscheese and @krispibacon seriously?
5. Colbert goes Gaga for Herman Cain
Herman Cain is probably better known for his role as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza than for his latest stint as a candidate for the GOP nomination. He’s certainly not in the same league as Bachmann or Romney yet Stephen Colbert is actually quite smitten with Cain. On July 12th, Colbert urged viewers to get on the Cain Train. At the same time, Colbert announced that Cain would be making an appearance on the show on July 28th. On Tuesday July 26th, Colbert sadly announced that Cain had cancelled his upcoming appearance in a funny clip; GOP candidate Buddy Roemer filled in as a replacement guest. The last time a presidential candidate cancelled on a late night host was back in the fall of 2008 when McCain snubbed David Letterman. Mocking quickly ensued. The bottom line for candidates -- take advantage of appearances on comedy programs, DON’T CANCEL. The benefits: reaching a broad, non-traditional viewing audience and the high likelihood that your appearance will get some repeat love from other media outlets.
Extra Credit from the Professor: A special shout-out goes to John Oliver, member of The Daily Show news team for bookending the month with some excellent contributions. Oliver’s update on the Dodd-Frank bill on the July 28th broadcast is worth a watch – he presents a catchy and hilarious song and dance routine. His Mary Poppins-esque Welcome Back to Morass News of the World Schadenfreudegasm performance from the July 11th show is also quite funny.
So that’s it for July 2011 and political comedy. Even with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert off for the first part of the month, there was still a lot of funny to go around. Look for Stephen Colbert to potentially make some waves with his Colbert Super PAC in August.
For even more on political comedy, check out my past media commentary on the importance of political comedy or stay up-to-date with the latest in politics and new media on my blog, Fresh Politics, New Media.