How Do You Make Energy Policy Funny?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Let's be clear... I'm not funny. I get out a nice one-liner every now and again, but you won't see me cracking 'em up on YouTube. That's why comedians are fascinating to me, especially those who make topics that are decidedly NOT funny, very funny. Like politics. We cover a lot of politics on this show, and I can tell you most of it is not the least bit funny (silly, or awkward sometimes, but rarely laugh-out-loud hysterical). Not like the Paris Hilton "campaign ad" we talked about yesterday. Darn funny. Or The Daily Show. Really funny (usually). Or some SNL segments... I'm thinking about Janet Reno's dance party, with the REAL Janet Reno. Hilarious. Who comes up with this stuff? Well, people like Adam McCay and Lizz Winstead. Adam is, among other things, one of the writers behind (if you haven't seen it yet, go now... We'll wait). Lizz co-created The Daily Show and has since branched out to host her own show, Thinking & Drinking. Think you can make politics funny? Prove it. And while politics obviously influences comedy, do you think comedy affects politics?



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I use shows like The Daily show as therapy when political decisions upset me. Laughter is the best medicine!

Sent by Christina | 3:24 PM | 8-7-2008

I feel like politicians often say things that few people can really take seriously but news people are not going report it and say, "well that's pretty hard to believe". (Mission Accomplished?) Some of my favorite moments on the Daily Show have been when the news was presented straight and then they allow a pause for everyone to laugh. No joke, just the chance to collectively respond to bull honestly instead of politely.
I hope some of the politicians watch and realize that just because they get away with saying something doesn't mean anyone really believes them.

Sent by Leslie Duvall | 3:28 PM | 8-7-2008

I love George W.'s response to his England visit by saying 'Thanks for the waving hands, especially those who used all five fingers'

Rosemary from Oakland

Sent by roemary | 3:28 PM | 8-7-2008

How do you know if a brain injury is on the mend?

Can they crack a joke?

Sent by Wayne Johnson | 3:31 PM | 8-7-2008

I hope and pray that comedy influences politics. I feel the top comedians are smarter, more honest and insightful than any of the politicians today. I get my most valuable news from Jon Stewart (along with the Times and NPR... of course)

Sent by Penny Ann Dolin | 3:34 PM | 8-7-2008

Where to find new material?! Look at John Edwards and his love child. The joke is his hypocrisy and the lack of coverage in the media.

Sent by Erik | 3:35 PM | 8-7-2008

I would like to see Daily Show and Cobert Report reporters at White House Press Conferences asking questions like, "Are you freakin' kidding me?"

Sent by Leslie Duvall | 3:38 PM | 8-7-2008

The only problem with the lampooning of Barack Obama is that there are too many people in the hinterlands who believe it.

Sent by Marci Montgomery | 3:39 PM | 8-7-2008

Pat Paulsen was the original!

Before SNL and before the Daily Show, Pat Paulsen and the Smothers Brothers originated modern television political comedy. They were the originals, and In my opinion, still the best.

Sent by Monty | 3:39 PM | 8-7-2008

I was going to call in, but your guest hit the nail on the head about the funny, concise way the Daily Show can point out the "talking points" or "message" the white house wants to put out. the show did a brilliant job displaying the hypocrisy and evolution of language and meaning of the Bush Administration policy.

Sent by Doris | 3:41 PM | 8-7-2008

I am curious how the "jib-jab" people are doing during this election cycle. Are they still funny, and is their humor different from your guests' approach to politics?

Sent by Larry Fischbach | 3:58 PM | 8-7-2008

Because politics is essentially manipulation of public opinion and because comedy is a major source of public opinion (in the form of entertainment) in today's world, comedy and politics are quite intimately related.

Specifically, in the current election and during the Bush years, comedians have focused on poking fun at Republicans. While this is almost inevitable given the goofy and "uncool" nature of the party and its ideology, the thinking has had a profound effect on my generation. Being a seventeen year-old I see that my age group views the Republican party as the "old people" party, while the Democrats are the cool ones that use iPods on a daily basis.

The biggest beneficiary of this perception (and slight reality) is obviously Barack Obama, whose trademark theme in speeches seems to be, in Seinfeld-esque form, "What is THE DEAL with Republicans?" All of Obama's work is done for him among 18-30's; it's almost taken for granted that Republicans are goofballs with absolutely no credibility.

Sent by Alex Cason | 4:02 PM | 8-7-2008

People who complain that they can't make a joke about Obama without being called a racist are similar to those who say that they can't have discussions with minorities without being called racist. Meaning they don't have regualr relationships with minorities and thus are unable to view them as just normal people with whom you feel comfortable around and you have have fun with. You can make tons of jokes about Obama if you can view him as "normal" as someone white. Black comedians and White comedians who have spent a lot of time with minorities manage to make jokes about Obama all the time. It's all about comfort level.
My favorite comedian-Bill Maher, although white makes fun of all races (including Obama) easily because he is comfortable being around other races.
It's not a big deal to him.
Maher, John stewart, and Colbert are popular becuase they have had to take the role of a critical press since the media can no longer be trusted to do their jobs. Instead of taking in political points and spitting it out back to the American people, they actually analyze these statements and point about the errors, smoke screen, and lies.
They have been the only source you can depend on to talk truth to both power and the press. And it's actually funny.

Sent by Sarah | 4:02 PM | 8-7-2008

Jimmy Carter as an example of a great president? Really McKay? Really Winstead?

Being comedic writers, I thought these two, if anybody, would understand the satire in the Moses ad. Like McCain or not, the ad touches on the the reality of the blind faith people (especially the young, my peers) have in Obama without knowing anything about his past, his policy, and his experience (or lack thereof). "I like him, because he gives me hope." It's not really the most educated way to place your vote.

McKay also seemed to miss, or is blatantly ignoring, the point of the Hilton ad. It is not the fact that Hilton and Spears are celebrities... it is the fact that they are frivolous celebrities who have received acclaim and vigorous enthusiasm without accomplishment. Obama's 143 days in the senate voting 'present' in many cases, hardly qualifies as an accomplishment. At least Hillary had the legislative tenure to support her go at the presidency.

Will you argue that lack of experience is a good thing? That it is fresh?
In that case I will leave you to your own ignorance and I will not go into the hypocrisy of the Obama campaign, his message of 'change' and his history in Chicago... way too much dirt for this forum.

I thought the email that questioned whether Obama's race played into his immunity with the press would balance the scales a little bit, but sure enough McKay avoided the issue altogether when he declared that race/sex jokes are tired, weak and simply not funny. NOT THE POINT MCKAY.

I have watched/laughed at "The Daily Show", "The Colbert Report" and in the past, but I don't think I will be able to enjoy any of these mediums knowing what self-assured delusional minds are behind them.

Sent by Tocque | 4:20 PM | 8-7-2008

To Talk of the Nation:
Being funny is truly difficult and it takes a lot of thought. Funny and politics...this was a great show...until Adam McCay got lazy and suggested "everyone in a red state go to Europe so as to learn something..." I get his joke, that anyone who lives in a "red state" is clearly dumb. Everyone. I agree that Republicans are idiots..I would have laughed at that... :)... but that's not what was said. Red state inhabitants are all dumb. I get it. Not funny. And then it was all backed up by the agreemnets (and laughter) from Lizz, and to my dismay, Neal. Neal is usually more rounded and should have taken a quick moment to point out that a great deal of people (nearly half) who live in any "red" state are neither republican nor ignorant (same thing)... So no thanks for once again supporting a poor stereotype we red state occupants deal with regularly from the coast huggers (I can't think of any stereo-typical name to call them) that those of us who don't have the "sense" to live near an ocean also have no sense of the realities of our greater society. It's a real "us" vs. "them" mentality and if you are preaching to the choir, you can get some big laughs. I hear lots of laughter on the national TV aimed at those "ignorant red staters". Certainly stereotypes exist for a reason, but this "red state" comment from Adam came directly after Neal agreed that jokes based on stereotypes aren't funny. It's very tiring and more than a little annoying to hear regularly from the comedy gurus, people who are usually Democratic in nature and live near large cities near the coasts, talk about people in "red states" as a group that all think the same, all vote Republican and are all uneducated. I'm not laughing. Maybe knowing my Democratic vote in Oklahoma over the last 60 years has been as useful as a (insert joke) ... has me a little sensitive to this. But we (red state democrats...the "smart" red state inhabitants) at least are able to regularly vote in a Democrat as our Govenor. I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere. Just not a funny one.

Sent by Dave Mardis | 4:40 PM | 8-7-2008

I rarely EVER watch local/national news. Stewart/Colbert provide the most accurate Delivery that they give and the fact that they show footage and proof even years prior showing someone contradicting themselves is brilliant.
Colbert and Stewart are the only news source. And thats the word!

Sent by KC | 5:31 PM | 8-7-2008

Go back and listen to the program. McCay never said, "everyone in a red state go to Europe so as to learn something...

He said, "...(if) everyone in the red states went to Europe for two weeks, it would transform this country."

I don't think the "red state" generalization was meant to deride conservatives as "dumb". Rather I think the idea was that conservatives need some broadening of ideas and experiences--as evidenced by Lizz's comments that her previously disengaged son came back charged and politically motivated after spending time abroad.

Sent by Carlos Moreno | 6:59 PM | 8-7-2008