Synopses & Reviews
Does late night political humor matter? Are late-night comedians merely entertaining, or do they have the power to influence the way we think about politics and politicians? Politics Is a Joke!
situates late night comedy in the historical context of political humor and demonstrates how the public turn to this venue for political information, and are in turn affected by it.
Using exclusive data collected by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the authors conduct a detailed and exhaustive analysis of political jokes on late night TV shows dating back to 1992 in order to pinpoint the main targets and themes of late-night comedy. Politics Is a Joke! uses a wide range of examples, from jokes about politicians physical appearance and sex scandals to jokes about Congress and even the news media, to assess and understand the impact of political humor on political institutions, politicians and their policies and behavior.
Engagingly written with analysis of jokes from comedians like Jay Leno, Conan OBrien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Politics is a Joke! is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial role late night comedy plays in our political universeand anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
"Accompanied by ample wit from Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, and performers on Saturday Night Live, the well-documented findings of Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs demonstrate how comedians, not journalists, are increasingly leading the conversation about politics. This shift, from traditional news to satire, reflects a change in how people get news as well as the increasing disillusionment with government; the authors crisply point out that this shift has drawbacks, chief among them that focusing on easy targets may add to increasing dysfunction and polarization, rather than informing the electorate. Charts examining the types of jibes directed at Bill Clinton predictably reveal a myopic focus on the tabloid elements of his presidency, while the minimal level of attention garnered by President Obama reveals a disinterest because of his lack of personal scandal. More than a decade's worth of research on indicators, from presidential approval ratings to candidate favorability, demonstrate that, with the notable exception of The Daily Show, whose viewers the authors cite as being more politically sophisticated, the quest for a pithy punch line is replacing analysis as the journalistic standard. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Politics Is a Joke!
is an outstanding contribution to explaining and evaluating the expanding role of humor in American political culture, politics, and government. It is an exceptional piece of scholarship in service to the classroom in its clear and cogent quantitative and qualitative analysis of late night political humor and its impact on mass audiences."
Michael Fitzgerald, University of Tennessee
"Politics Is a Joke! does an excellent job of determining how political humor influences public perception of presidents and other political figures. The authors provide a thorough analysis of late night talk shows that hold sway with the public, including those of Comedy Central, often to the extent of influencing the outcome of a presidential election. Readers will find the work of these authors intriguing."
Terri Jett, Butler University
This book is informative, entertaining, and timely. Highly recommended.” Choice
Should be required reading for political strategists whose candidates images are both shaped and reflected by TV humor. . . . Astutely analyzed . . . its insights will find their ways into the mainstream media.” Kirkus
Engagingly written with analysis of jokes from comedians like Jay Leno, Conan OBrien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Politics Is a Joke! is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial role late night comedy plays in our political universeand anyone who enjoys a good laugh.” SirReadaLot
This book explores the effect late night political humor has on politicians, agenda-setting, policies, and our political behavior.
About the Author
S. Robert Lichter
is Professor of Communication at George Mason University, where he also directs the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS). He previously taught at Princeton, Georgetown, and George Washington University and held research faculty positions at Yale and Columbia. Lichter has authored or co-authored fourteen books and numerous scholarly and popular articles on the media. His most recent books are The Nightly News Nightmare: Television Coverage of Presidential Elections
(2011, 3rd ed.) and The Global President: International Media and the US Government
(with Stephen Farnsworth and Roland Schatz, Rowman and Littlefield 2013).
Jody C Baumgartner is an associate professor of political science at East Carolina University. He has several books to his credit, his latest including The American Vice Presidency Reconsidered (Praeger, 2006), Conventional Wisdom and American Elections: Exploding Myths, Exploring Misconceptions (2nd Ed., Rowman and Littlefield, 2010, with Peter Francia), and Laughing Matters: Humor and American Politics in the Media Age (Routledge, 2007, co-edited with Jonathan Morris). He has also written or collaborated on over two dozen articles and book chapters on political humor, the vice presidency, and other subjects.
Jonathan S. Morris (Ph.D, Purdue) is associate professor of political science at East Carolina University. He has published research on the role of humor and politics has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Political Behavior, American Politics Research, and Public Opinion Quarterly. Morris is co-editor of Laughing Matters: Humor and American Politics in the Media Age (with Jody Baumgartner). Morris has also published research on the role of cable news and partisan news in journals such as Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction: Politics Is a Funny Business
Chapter 2. The Rise of Late-Night Comedy
Chapter 3. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The White House
Chapter 4. Pols Behaving Badly
Chapter 5. Whats So Funny?
Chapter 6. Laughing Matters?
Chapter 7. If You Cant Beat Them, Join Them
Chapter 8. Political Humor - Prospect and Retrospect