Satire, government, and the news work together in a delicate balance. Shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Colbert Report have given both Republicans and Democrats a chance to take a break from traditional news with entertainment concerning politics.
“There has always been political humor as long as there have been people who felt powerless in response to political power or who had the power an audience gave them to question authority,” Rick Froman, professor of psychology at John Brown University, said.
From the beginning of its 42 year run, Saturday Night Live has always impersonated current political leaders no matter the party. Viewers usually think of these impersonations as light and humorous and do not take offense at the impersonations of political leaders.
This year these impersonations have received more attention. “One difference is these portrayals were seldom responded to by the politicians involved, and if they did the politicians tried to seem as if they were in on the joke,” Froman said.
President Trump is one of the few people that has negatively critiqued his portrayal on Saturday Night Live. The Washington Post reported that Alec Baldwin’s Trump impersonations, followed bynegative tweets about the show from Trump, went back and forth for weeks. Trump said the skits portrayed a one-sided view.
Froman said the use of satire in shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Colbert Report is not just to mock political leaders, but satire can also be used to strengthen “the bonds of the in-groups.”
Parody shows have a way of presenting the news that can be more appealing to people than a regular news station. In parody news shows there is “often there is a straight news setup and then a humorously absurd punch-line that goes in a different direction than you expect from the straightforward presentation of the news,” Froman said.
Their strategic set-up to gain more viewers has caused many to think that the agenda of satirical television shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Colbert Report’s is to influence America’s political view. Although that may be the writer’s intentions, Froman said he believes the purpose of these shows is for entertainment. Froman said the people most likely to be influenced by the show are people who are already be in agreement with the political views the show presents.
Unfortunately, some viewers take these shows and use them as primary news sources. The comedic nature of these shows and channels have effects on viewers that regular news channels do not offer.
“I think the trust that these shows develop is due to the subversive element of humor and the shared perspectives of the audience and the presenters,” Froman said.
This can be dangerous because “individuals who don’t take the time to look at multiple information sources, both serious and humorous shows that poke fun at politics, they may be basing their opinions on shallow sources,” Randy Hollingsworth, professor of communication, said.