Class is in session: Towson professor picks June's best political comedy

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.

For more about Dr. Becker, visit her website or check out her new blog, Fresh Politics, New Media.

From Professor Becker’s Desk:

Top 5 Political Comedy Highlights from June 2010

1. Jon Stewart’s take on the Anthony Weiner scandal

The Anthony Weiner twitter photo scandal provided comedians with a special treat. The jokes about Weiner’s weiner were seemingly endless yet never seemed to stop being funny. If I really wanted to, I could come up with a list of 5 top clips for June that only focused on Weiner.

After careful consideration, my top pick is Jon Stewart’s mock press conference from the June 7, 2011 broadcast of The Daily Show.


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The clip was successful on many fronts, but is most notable for the way it deviates from the regular opening of each episode of The Daily Show. Rather than start by sitting at the “anchor’s desk,” Stewart begins with the press conference, a clear departure from the standard format of the show. Ultimately, this makes the clip all the more effective because it requires that viewers spend some time taking note of and processing the shift from the normal programming format to the parody press conference.

The clip was particularly impactful for those who watched the actual Weiner press conference and were able to more fully “get the jokes” Stewart was making with his parody of Weiner’s original performance.

2. Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere Blunder and Stephen Colbert’s reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride

To comedians, Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving. This month, Palin made news with her historic bus tour and her “account of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride.” 

Colbert offered the best coverage of Palin’s flub.

The Colbert Report
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The Colbert clip included coverage of Palin’s original commentary, a follow-up interview with Palin on Fox News (her current employer) where she insists she “didn’t mess up,” and coverage of her supporters’ revision of the Paul Revere Wikipedia page.

Colbert concludes with a reenactment of Paul Revere’s famous ride, complete with a coin-operated horse that resembles those mechanical horses you used to see outside the supermarket as a kid.

Overall, the clip offers a good summary of the Palin flub and successfully makes the point that Palin’s rendition of history might be just a little bit “revisionist.”

3. The Onion’s campaign to win a Pulitzer Prize.

To celebrate its 1,000th issue, The Onion started a campaign to be recognized with a Pulitzer Prize for its award-winning journalism. The campaign has its own website, The Americans for Fairness in Awarding Journalism Prizes, which features its own public service announcement (PSA) and video testimonials from celebrities and others offering their support for awarding The Onion a Pulitzer.

The Onion’s campaign has actually gathered some real media attention. Here’s an interesting segment from the June 23, 2011 broadcast of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. During the piece, Tom Brokaw and others discuss the role of satire in the contemporary media climate. The mainstream media’s focus on The Onion’s quest for the Pulitzer speaks to the importance of The Onion and the role of political satirists as media watchdogs.

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I for one think we’ll see a lot more from The Onion as the 2012 election cycle intensifies and believe it’s an important “political comedy outlet” to watch.

4. Jon Huntsman mock campaign video on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and ambassador to China, is running for the Republican nomination for President. His web site is up and running and includes some “unique” biographical video content.

During his June 22nd broadcast, Jimmy Kimmel offered his commentary on Jon Huntsman’s campaign ad/video.  It’s pretty clear that the “fake ad” is the second set of clips, but I’m not sure which version is funnier – the real version (full video clip available here) or Jimmy Kimmel’s parody. Kimmel wasn’t the first to take this on – Conan O’Brien also made fun of the video biopic.

While we generally first think of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert when it comes to political comedy, network comedians like Kimmel, Fallon, Letterman, and Leno will be an important part of the 2012 election cycle.

This clip and parody in general is becoming more prevalent in the world of political comedy. Another great example is the fake Jane Corwin for Congress web site (she lost the race to replace Congressman Chris Lee, the other congressman from New York who shared lewd photos over the Internet)

5. Donald Trump and Sarah Palin go out for a slice of pizza in NYC

At the very beginning of the month, Jon Stewart covered Sarah Palin’s bus tour and her visit with Donald Trump in New York City.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cMe Lover's Pizza with Crazy Broadwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Palin and Trump went out for a slice of pizza and Stewart takes issue with “Captain Combover’s” choice of venue. As a former New Yorker, I have to agree with Stewart’s list of real New York pizza shops and his criticism of Trump for eating a slice of pizza with a fork.

While the clip is not overtly political, it was well received by online and television viewers. By June 25th, the clip had been viewed over half a million times on the Comedy Central web site (672,902 to be exact) and the online comments suggest that viewers really took Stewart’s criticism of Trump to heart.

The success of this clip is its viral reach and audience member’s appreciation of Jon Stewart’s NYC-centric humor. It’s just too bad Trump decided not to run for president, we would have been in for a much funnier summer.


So that’s it for June 2011 and political comedy. Look for the presidential campaign to continue to drive comedy coverage as we begin July.

For even more, 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.

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