Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Government by Comedy

BBC Trending just put up an article discussing the impact of Barack Obama's appearance on Between Two Ferns on visits to The results seem to indicate that, at least in the short term, the impact was definitely a positive one. In is unclear how significant these results are, particularly because that "in the short term" qualifier cannot be overemphasized. However, in the longer term these results may add further data points to support the hypothesis that comedians on television are more trusted sources than just about anyone in the government, possibly (probably?) including the President of the United States. There is a tendency to say that this is just the best way to appeal to youth culture. On the other hand it may be worth considering that, in the political arena, there is nothing particularly new about trusting comedians. We are still more inclined to believe the witticisms of Will Rogers and Mark Twain than any official statement released at a Presidential press briefing. Perhaps we trust comedians to recognize bullshit, because bullshit is often the perfect source for a good joke (somewhat like chutzpah). On the other hand there is often an all-too-human tendency to laugh at a joke without necessarily getting what the joke really is. In other words, while we may accept the comedian as an authority, we are not always clear on his/her authenticity, which means that "policy by stand-up" can be just as flawed as "official story" press releases.

1 comment:

DigitalDan said...

Arguably, "comedians" the likes of Rogers, Twain, Stewart, Maher, and Colbert are not so much comedians as philosophers and political commentators who communicate most effectively through humor. It is interesting that it is hard to identify similar comedians with a conservative bent; Limbaugh sometimes claims to be an entertainer, but it would be very hard to say he's funny. Dennis Miller, maybe. Ben Stein is a conservative, but never expressed it through his comedic activities.

Of all of these, I'm most impressed with John Stewart's ability to get the the core of things.