Political satire is satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics; it has also been used with subversive intent where political speech and dissent are forbidden by a regime, as a method of advancing political arguments where such arguments are expressly forbidden.
Political satire is usually distinguished from political protest or political dissent, as it does not necessarily carry an agenda nor seek to influence the political process. While occasionally it may, it more commonly aims simply to provide entertainment. By its very nature, it rarely offers a constructive view in itself; when it is used as part of protest or dissent, it tends to simply establish the error of matters rather than provide solutions.
Satire can be traced back throughout history; wherever organized government, or social categories, has existed, so has satire.
The oldest example that has survived till today is Aristophanes. In his time satire targeted top politicians, like Cleon, and religion, at the time headed by Zeus. "Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith," leading to an increased doubt towards religion by the general population. The Roman period, for example, gives us the satirical poems and epigrams of Martial. Cynic philosophers often engaged in political satire.
Due to lack of political freedom of speech in many ancient civilizations, covert satire is more usual than overt satire in ancient literatures of political liberalism. Historically, the public opinion in the Athenian democracy was remarkably influenced by the political satire performed by the comic poets at the theatres. Watching or reading satire has since ancient time been considered one of the best ways to understand a culture and a society.
During the 20th and 21st Centuries satire is found in an increasing number of media (in cartoons as political cartoons with heavy caricature and exaggeration, and in political magazines) and the parallel exposure of political scandals to performances (including television shows). Examples include musicians such as Tom Lehrer, live performance groups like the Capitol Steps and the Montana Logging and Ballet Co., and public television and live performer Mark Russell. Additional subgenres include such literary classics as Gulliver's Travels and Animal Farm, and more recently, internet Ezine and website sources such as The Onion.
One example is Maurice Joly's 1864 pamphlet entitled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu), which attacks the political ambitions of Napoleon III. It was first published in Brussels in 1864. The piece used the literary device of a dialogue between two diabolical plotters in Hell, the historical characters of Machiavelli and Montesquieu, to cover up a direct, and illegal, attack on Napoleon's rule. The noble baron Montesquieu made the case for liberalism; the Florentine political writer Machiavelli presented the case for cynical despotism. In this manner, Joly communicated the secret ways in which liberalism might spawn a despot like Napoleon III. However, The Prince itself has also been sometimes understood as political satire.
The UK has a long tradition of political satire, dating from the early years of English literature. In some readings, a number of William Shakespeare's plays can be seen – or at least performed – as satire, including Richard III and The Merchant of Venice. Later examples such as Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal are more outright in their satirical nature.
In recent decades, political satire in the United Kingdom includes pamphlets and newspaper articles, such as Private Eye, topical television panel shows such as Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week, and television series such as Ballot Monkeys, The Mash Report and Spitting Image.
Satire became more visible on American television during the 1960s. Some of the early shows that used political satire include the British and American versions of the program That Was the Week That Was (airing on the American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, in the U.S.), CBS's The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and NBC's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. During the months leading up to the 1968 presidential election, Richard Nixon appeared on Laugh-In and repeated the program's catch-phrase "Sock it to me." Other forms of satire of the 1960s and early 1970s typically used the sitcom format, such as the show All in the Family.
When Saturday Night Live debuted in 1975, the show began to change the way that comedians would depict the president on television. Chevy Chase opened the fourth episode of the show with his impersonation of a bumbling Gerald Ford. Chase did not change his appearance to look like President Ford, and he portrayed the president by repeatedly falling down on the stage. Some of the other famous presidential impersonations on Saturday Night Live include Dan Aykroyd's Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter caricatures, Dana Carvey as George H. W. Bush, Darrell Hammond as Bill Clinton, Will Ferrell as George W. Bush, and Jay Pharoah as Barack Obama. Hammond was the first cast member to impersonate Donald Trump, but now Alec Baldwin portrays him.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Saturday Night Live gained wide attention because former cast member Tina Fey returned to the show to satirize Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. In addition to Fey's striking physical resemblance to Palin, the impersonation of the vice presidential candidate was also noteworthy because of Fey's humorous use of some of exactly the same words Palin used in media interviews and campaign speeches as a way to perform political satire.
Saturday Night Live also uses political satire throughout its Weekend Update sketch. Weekend Update is a fake news segment on the show that satirizes politics and current events. It has been a part of SNL since the first episode of the show on October 11, 1975.
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report use stylistic formats that are similar to Weekend Update. On The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart used footage from news programs to satirize politics and the news media. Stephen Colbert performed in character on The Colbert Report as a right-wing news pundit. Both hosts' television programs were broadcast on Comedy Central, while The Daily Show continues to run featuring a new host. Colbert became the host of The Late Show, succeeding David Letterman. With their shows, Stewart and Colbert helped increase public and academic discussion of the significance of political satire. Real Time with Bill Maher and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee are also examples of political commentary.
According to the findings of the 2004 Pew Survey, both younger and older audiences are turning to late-night comedy shows as not only a source of entertainment, but also for an opportunity to gain political awareness. For this reason, Geoffrey Baym suggests that shows that make use of political satire, such as The Daily Show, should be considered as a form of alternative journalism. Utilizing satire has shown to be an attractive feature in news programming, drawing in the audiences of less politically engaged demographic cohorts. Moreover, satire news programming can be considered alternative because satire plays an important role in dissecting and critiquing power.
In his article The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism, Baym detailed how The Daily Show, then hosted by Jon Stewart, presented news stories. For the satire news show, presenting information in a comprehensive manner was used to give viewers a greater perspective of a situation. Often, Stewart studded his segments with additional background information, or reminders of relevant and past details. For example, The Daily Show displayed the full video of Bush's comments regarding Tenet's resignation in 2004. This was a deliberate choice by the show in attempt to give a more sincere representation of the event. Moreover, it can be seen as a challenge and critique of what more traditional news shows failed to include. In this way, satire news can be seen as more informative than other news sources. Notably, research findings released by National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES) concede that followers of satire news are more knowledgeable and consume more news than the general population.
Meanwhile, Joseph Faina has considered the satire used in news shows as a facilitator in developing a public journalism practice. Faina explains in his article that the nature of satire encourages viewers to become politically engaged, and a civic participant, in which the humor exercised by hosts elicit responses in viewers. However, Faina has acknowledged that this model is somewhat idealistic. Nevertheless, Faina argues that the potential still exists. Not to mention, with the rise in technology and the growing ubiquity of cellular phones, it can be argued that civic participation is all the more easier to accomplish.
Though satire in news is celebrated as a vehicle toward a more informed public, such view is not universally shared among scholars. Critics have expressed their hesitancy toward the infiltration of lighthearted practices to cover more dire topics like political affair. Potentially off-color remarks, or vulgar comments made by the likes of Stephen Colbert of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, or Samantha Bee, host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, can be used as examples of what critics are concerned over. Here, satire is believed to diminish the gravity of a topic.
Baym proposes that as these shows are alternative, they have no obligation to "abide by standard practices". Unlike traditional news sources, which may be required to adhere to certain agendas, like political affiliation or advertising restrictions, hosts of satire news shows are free and zealous to showcase personal contributions through their mentions of disdain, qualms, and excitement. Critics of satire in news shows thus believe that the showcasing of an overly and openly frustrated host will induce or perpetuate "cynicism in viewers".
The fact that the gods could be brought down to a human or 'far too human' level is certainly rooted in the very nature of Greek religion, and there is no doubt that this attitude contributed to the gradual undermining of the old belief in the gods. [...] To tell immoral and scandalous stories about the gods did not offend average religious feeling; it troubled only advanced spirits like Xenophanes and Pintar [...] and it is clear that people no longer believed either in the story or in Zeus. Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith, above all faith in the gods' power, and it was from this that doubt began to grow.
The power of the gods, whose dignity and stringth were impressively reflected in most of the tragedies, however different the religious attitudes of the tragic poets were, this same power was on the same festival days belittled and questioned by the comic poets who made fun of the gods and represented traditional and sacred forms in a starling manner.
A Good Man in Africa is a 1994 film, based on William Boyd's 1981 novel A Good Man in Africa and directed by Bruce Beresford. The film starred Colin Friels, Sean Connery, John Lithgow, Joanne Whalley, Diana Rigg and Louis Gossett, Jr.A King in New York
A King in New York is a 1957 British comedy film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin in his last leading role, which co-stars, among others, his young son Michael. The film presents a satirical view of the McCarthy communist-hunt era and certain other aspects of United States politics and society. The film, which was produced in Europe after Chaplin's exile from the U.S. in 1952, did not open in the United States until 1973.Achamillai Achamillai
Achamillai Achamillai (lit. Fearless) is a 1984 Indian Tamil-language political satire film directed by K. Balachander. It stars Rajesh and Saritha in the lead with Pavithra, Delhi Ganesh and Charle in other prominent roles. The film deals with party switching and depicts its influence on the lives of small-time politicians. The film met with critical acclaim, winning three awards at the 32nd Filmfare Awards South, as well as the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. The title refers to a popular poem composed by Bharathiyar.Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a 1992 American-British satirical mockumentary film written, directed by, and starring Tim Robbins. It depicts the rise of Robert "Bob" Roberts Jr., a right-wing politician who is a candidate for an upcoming United States Senate election. Roberts is well financed, due mainly to past business dealings, and is well known for his music, which presents conservative ideas with gusto.
The film is Robbins's directorial debut, and is based on a short segment of the same title and featuring the same character that Robbins portrayed on Saturday Night Live.Bulworth
Bulworth is a 1998 American political satire comedy film co-written, co-produced, directed by, and starring Warren Beatty. It co-stars Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden, and Isaiah Washington. The film follows the title character, California Senator Jay Billington Bulworth (Beatty), as he runs for re-election while trying to avoid a hired assassin. The film received generally positive reviews and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay but was a box office failure grossing $29.2 million on a $30 million budget.Earth (The Book)
Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race is a 2010 humor book written by Jon Stewart and other writers of The Daily Show, and is a sequel to America (The Book).Jibon Theke Neya
Jeebon Theke Neya (Bengali: জীবন থেকে নেয়া) is a 1970 Bengali-language film directed by Zahir Raihan. The film is a political satire based on the Bengali Language Movement under the rule of Pakistan metaphorically, where an autocratic woman in one family symbolizes the political dictatorship of Ayub Khan in East Pakistan, and stars Shaukat Akbar, Anwar Hossain, Khan Ataur Rahman and Rosy Samad.Jeebon Theke Neya has been described as an example of "national cinema", using discrete local traditions to build a representation of the Bangladeshi national identity. It is considered a milestone for Bangladeshi cinema and also a classic.No Man's Land (2001 film)
No Man's Land (Bosnian: Ničija zemlja) is a 2001 war film that is set in the midst of the Bosnian War. The film is a parable and marked the debut of Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanović. It is a co-production among companies in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Italy, France, Belgium and the UK. The film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2001.Saturday Night Live parodies of Bill Clinton
The 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton has been parodied on Saturday Night Live (SNL) since 1992. Clinton was in office 1993-2001, and has been portrayed on the show over a hundred times, most often by Darrell Hammond.Saturday Night Live has parodied U.S. presidents and other politicians since the show started in 1975. The numerous sketches on Clinton are often inspired by aspects of his presidency, the Lewinsky scandal, and his relationship with his wife, herself a frequent subject in SNL's political sketches.Taiyō o Nusunda Otoko
Taiyō o Nusunda Otoko (太陽を盗んだ男), also known as The Man Who Stole the Sun, is a 1979 Japanese political satire spy film, directed by Hasegawa Kazuhiko and written by Leonard Schrader.The Campaign (film)
The Campaign is a 2012 American political satire comedy film directed by Jay Roach, written by Shawn Harwell and Chris Henchy and stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as two North Carolinians vying for a seat in Congress. The film was released on August 10, 2012 to mixed reviews.The Death of Stalin
The Death of Stalin is a 2017 political satire black comedy film written and directed by Armando Iannucci and co-written by David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows. It stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, and Jeffrey Tambor, with Olga Kurylenko, Paul Chahidi, Dermot Crowley, Adrian McLoughlin, and Paul Whitehouse appearing in support roles. Based on the French graphic novel La Mort de Staline, the film depicts the power struggle following the death of Soviet revolutionary and politician Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) in 1953.
The Death of Stalin was screened in the Platform section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and received critical acclaim. It was released by eOne Films in the United Kingdom on 20 October 2017, in the United States by IFC Films on 9 March 2018, and in France on 4 April 2018. The film was banned in Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan because of its perceived anti-Soviet theme. It received a Magritte Award nomination in the category of Best Foreign Film.The Dictator (2012 film)
The Dictator is a 2012 political satire comedy film co-written by and starring Sacha Baron Cohen as his fourth feature film in a leading role. The film is directed by Larry Charles, who previously directed Baron Cohen's mockumentaries Borat and Brüno. Baron Cohen, in the role of Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya visiting the United States, stars alongside Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, and an uncredited appearance by John C. Reilly.
Producers Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel said that Baron Cohen's character was inspired by real-life leaders considered dictators like Kim Jong-il, Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, Mobutu Sese Seko and Saparmurat Niyazov. The film's opening credits dedicate it to Kim Jong-il, "in loving memory".The Great McGinty
The Great McGinty is a 1940 political satire comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff and featuring William Demarest and (in her final screen appearance) Muriel Angelus. It was Sturges's first film as a director; he sold the story to Paramount Pictures for just $10 on condition he direct the film. Sturges went on to win the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay.
In the U.K. the film was retitled Down Went McGinty.The Phantom President
The Phantom President is a 1932 American pre-Code musical comedy and political satire film. It was directed by Norman Taurog, starred George M. Cohan, Claudette Colbert, and Jimmy Durante, with songs by Richard Rodgers (music) and Lorenz Hart (lyrics).
According to Rodgers, Cohan deeply resented having to work with Rodgers and Hart on the film. Cohan was bitter that his type of musical theatre had gone out of fashion, supplanted by the more literate and musically sophisticated shows of Rodgers and Hart, among others. During the filming, Cohan would sarcastically refer to Rodgers and Hart as "Gilbert and Sullivan".
However, in 1937 Cohan starred in I'd Rather Be Right, a musical with songs by Rodgers and Hart, so the grudge was not permanent. (Although in the Cohan biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy, the segments dealing with I'd Rather Be Right only mention librettists George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, not Rodgers and Hart.)The Short Reign of Pippin IV
The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication is a novel by John Steinbeck published in 1957; his only political satire, the book pokes fun at French politics.Thirumbi Paar
Thirumbi Paar (Tamil: திரும்பிப் பார்; English: Look Back!) is a 1953 Tamil language film starring Sivaji Ganesan, P. V. Narasimha Bharathi, Pandari Bai, Krishna Kumari and Girija in the lead roles. Produced and directed by T. R. Sundaram of Modern Theatres, the film was written by M. Karunanidhi, who would later become the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Thirumbi Paar was one of the earliest Tamil films whose dialogues were known to be a political satire on the Indian National Congress, the ruling party then. Sivaji Ganesan played a negative role in the film and received wide acclaim.Wag the Dog
Wag the Dog is a 1997 black comedy film produced and directed by Barry Levinson and starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. The screenplay concerns a spin doctor and a Hollywood producer who fabricate a war to distract voters from a presidential sex scandal. The screenplay by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet was loosely adapted from Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero.
Wag the Dog was released one month before the outbreak of the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan by the Clinton administration in August 1998, which prompted the media to draw comparisons between the film and reality. The comparison was made again in December 1998 when the administration initiated a bombing campaign of Iraq just prior to Clinton's impeachment over the Lewinsky scandal.You have two cows
"You have two cows" is a form of political satire on various political, economic, etc. systems. The setup of a typical joke of this kind
is the assumption that you live within a given system and you have two cows. The punch line is what happens to you and the cows in this system.