“First Make People Laugh, Then Make Them Think”

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I have a particular affinity for satire. The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are two of my favorite shows (along with The Price is Right) and I read The Onion regularly.  It’s most likely because three of my favorite pastimes are laughing, thinking, and criticizing society. Satire often leads me to successfully engage in all three at once.

In most cases, it’s a very approachable form of social criticism because it doesn’t come across as blatant and vehement hatred for all the shortcomings of this world. It portrays, in the digestible form of humor, more of a subtle dislike. It makes people feel good while bringing to light everything that should make them feel bad.

The best satire doesn’t come across as preachy or condescending. Ironically, this is one reason I find Stephen Colbert more effective: his character’s preaching actually seems less preachy than Jon Stewart’s… Jon Stewart. Because Colbert acts as a condescending conservative, it’s hard to tell if he would be as condescending if he were playing himself. Being exposed to everything he doesn’t believe doesn’t exactly allow one to know what he does believe (although I’m pretty sure he isn’t really a Republican).

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Sometimes, and only sometimes, Stewart can become a bit condescending and resort to what I would consider full-blown teasing. Some would say that Stewart, who rarely leaves his true feelings ambiguous is more courageous because he isn’t hiding behind a character. But I think Colbert is more strategic and generally more accessible to potential converts to the world of satire. Even Colbert at his least light-hearted (which I believe occurs during his “The Word” segments) avoids nastiness and, ironically once again, arrogance.

Some examples:

Stewart on NBC’s editing of George Zimmerman’s 911 call (pay attention to his impression of Senator Mitch McConnell)

Colbert’s “The Word” segment (very powerful)

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