Finding humor in politics


The elections are upon us, and U.S. citizens across the country are turning to — no, not the news media, not the New York Times — but Saturday Night Live and other satirical news sources for their election information. Studies have shown that people are able to receive more reliable, less biased news from satirical shows such as “The Daily Show” than from actual news sources.

These satirical news sources push the envelope on a weekly basis with their scripts and sketches. They bring to light the opinions and inner thoughts that regular news sources skirt around. Countless public officials with serious jobs and agendas, such as presidential candidates, have appeared on shows such as “Saturday Night Live” to help their campaigns and show the American public that they can be real too.

In their famous Sarah Palin/Hillary Clinton sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler addressed the issue of sexism and importance of having smart, intelligent women in power.

Junior Madeline Young shares some of the benefits of humor during election season.

“In terms of SNL cast members imitating candidates, I think it offers a valuable aspect to the election as it relieves some of the tension through humor and reaches more people than a typical news cast or newspaper article would,” Young said. “But for candidates appearing on SNL I think it’s a clear effort from them to appear more relaxed and likeable which seems like a clear political strategy rather than something they actually want to do.”

As the current 2016 election stumbles along, a satirical skit of Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump and the skit in which Hillary Clinton herself plays a bartender and listens to an actress play herself both take the cake as crowd favorites.

Sophomore Megan Woody shares why she does not think candidates appearing on SNL is a positive thing for their election.

“I don’t think I’m a big fan of them doing it,” Woody said. “I feel like they should be doing something more important but it is also effective in relating to younger populations and making them seem more personable.”

Even though it does seem integral to democracy to have shows such as SNL around, people do complain that the show can sometimes push the boundaries too far and border on disrespectful. For example, many people were upset when Donald Trump hosted SNL a few weeks back. People were upset that NBC invited Trump to host Saturday Night Live despite his comments describing Mexican immigrants as rapists who bring crime and drugs into the U.S.

These sketches have the potential to sway people’s opinions and often people take political satire to heart, meaning they take it too seriously. People could be concerned that an uninformed public, relying on comedy for their news, could lead to people taking parodies at face value. It would be very dangerous for people to take what is said on SNL as wholly true.

Television shows, especially political satire shows, are extremely popular; they reach and inform millions of people every day. In my opinion, political satire is a healthy part of American democracy.

It is also good for candidates to make fun of their campaigns and realize their shortcomings; because it makes them accountable. With that kind of airtime, along a talented cast and writing team, there is no limit to what a political satirist can accomplish.