Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Teaching and Researching Political Comedy

I wrote a piece for the October 2012 Faculty Voice (The University System of Maryland's faculty newspaper) entitled, "No Laughing Matter: Researching and Teaching about Comedy, Popular Culture, and Politics"

Here's the intro: I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for “homework.” At least that’s what I tell my students. In truth, as an academic researcher who studies the impact of popular culture and entertainment on political behavior and attitudes, I do consume more than my fair share of comedy content — the thing is, I’m not the only one tuning in.

You can access the full piece here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TU in 2 Video on Political Comedy

Towson University has been posting "TU in 2 videos" for a couple of semesters now. In these short videos, Towson faculty give a mini-lecture on their area of research expertise.

In my video I talk about why academics study political comedy and the finding that not all comedy forms are created equal. Hostile humor, or traditional satire in which a comedian like Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart pokes fun of a politician, results in viewers exhibiting more negative attitudes toward the comic target. Viewing self-directed humor, on the other hand, encourages viewers evaluate the politician more favorably.

The lesson for politicians -- be able to both make and take a good joke.

The full video is here:

For more TU in 2 videos, check out some greats from Spring 2012 and Fall 2011

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Debates, Social Media, and #bindersfullofwomen

Ready for tonight's final presidential debate? Having trouble with the fact that Election Day is just two weeks away? Wondering whether this final debate will make a difference in the poll results?

Last week I spoke with WBAL-TV about the second debate and the social media response to Mitt Romney's #bindersfullofwomen comment. The full video of the interview is available here.

In the interview, I discussed the democratizing potential of social media -- with sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook anyone can get involved in the political discussion. You can share your thoughts in 140 characters, create your own picture and caption on Tumblr, or share your views on who won the debate with members of your Facebook social network. We also talked about one of America's favorite Sesame Street characters -- Big Bird.

While all eyes are on the third debate, new binders full of women photos still keep appearing on Tumblr.

Some old and new favorites are included below. Enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

#Rumble2012: For those who couldn't stream the event in that air conditioned auditorium

There was another debate this week, "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium" between Bill O'Reilly of FOX News and Jon Stewart of Comedy Central fame.

For those who had trouble streaming the event live after paying their $4.95, The Washington Post offers a synopsis and five key take-aways. They also made a pretty comprehensive list of the best one-liners from the rumble.

For those who watched the event the next day (like me), #rumble2012 was more deliberative than combative and serious than funny. Both O'Reilly and Stewart offered their perspectives on the current state of the economy, foreign policy, and their own personal views on the role of entitlements and government involvement in everyday life.

For those who weren't able to get that streaming working, Slate offers a good summary here.

And you can still purchase and now download a copy of the event on the now less-trafficked Rumble 2012 web site.

SNL, the 2012 Election, and Learning about Parody

There's a great article in today's New York Times about the influence of SNL during a competitive election season. As we've been learning in my TSEM class(Popular Culture and Politics: Comedy, Entertainment, Celebrity, and Democracy) this semester, journalists and the public alike look to the cast of SNL to offer their parody version of each general election debate.

Parody is a reinterpretation of an original text -- a mockery that is easier to understand if you're familiar with the original event or script.

According to the SNL writing team, this past Wednesday's debate failed to offer genuine comic inspiration. From the NYT article:

"But the debate itself turned out to be a challenge. There were no big gaffes or obvious springboards for comedy. Instead, the first debate of this election offered up a blizzard of policy details and a lackluster performance from President Obama.

At home Wednesday night, Seth Meyers, one of the show’s head writers, watched with increasing concern."

“It’s boring enough when they’re talking about all this and how it will affect Americans, but when you’re sitting there trying to pull comedy out of it, it’s really bad,” Mr. Meyers said. “There were people on Twitter saying: ‘You must be really happy, there’s so much in this debate. This is writing itself.’ I was like: what debate are you watching?”

Despite the lack of comic material, the SNL cast presented three debate related skits this past Saturday night.

First, there was the debate cold open featuring Jay Pharoah as Obama and Jason Sudekis as Romney.

Not the best debate skit ever, but certainly some funny lines.

Then there was the parody of MSNBC's reaction to Obama's debate performance:

and finally, Big Bird made an appearance on Weekend Update:

Is it bad to suggest that Big Bird (played by Caroll Spinney since 1969) as funnier than any other SNL cast member?

Election Day is only a few weeks away and there's the VP debate Thursday night. I wonder what SNL will open with next Saturday night?