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Political Comedy, Then and Now

President Obama goes on Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart march on Washington. We look at political humor.

President Obama with Jon Stewart on October 27, 2010 (AP).

American political humor has a big, long history. You can take it right back to the Civil War and beyond. And it’s sure big now.

The president last night – days before a big election – on Comedy Central. Comedians, this weekend, leading a march or two on Washington, to “restore sanity,” says Jon Stewart. To “keep fear alive,” says Stephen Colbert.

Comics have skewered presidents and puffed-up politicians forever, but many Americans now say they go to comedians for their news – for a more honest, probing take on what’s going on.

We look at political humor, in the heart of politics.

-Tom Ashbrook


Danna Young, professor of communication at the University of Delaware. She focuses her research on political satire and the psychology of political humor.

Scott Scantis, editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. See some of his recent cartoons here.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

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  • Ryan (is riant)

    Jon and Stephen: a cathartic comedy duo that palliates frustration across the continent through banter and drollery and wit. I think echo many folks when I express gratitude for their duty. Their duty to comfort through satire. (That’s right: duty!)

    Wish I could go to Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. But I got class.

  • Ryan (is riant)

    (By the way: when I said I couldn’t go because I have class, I totally did not mean that in a snobbish way.)

  • wavre

    Those two guys are very, very smart; they have found a safe way to speak truth to Power. If you take them lightly, you will be missing the point.
    I have never seen in my life such gusty performance like the Colbert’s speech at the press invitational dinner, where he picked President Bush apart!!
    From that day on the Emperor had no more clothes!

    Beware of the power of satire!

  • lool

    I relish Colbert’s takedown of the right wing pundits. However unfortunately for the “Nation” the audience is splintered and he is preaching to the choir. The message does not reach the folks who watch the pundits (right wing).

    Today’s word.

  • jeffe

    “If the world ends, I’ll just head on down to Kentucky because they’re always 20 years behind.” –Mark Twain”

    Amazing that after 100 years since his passing that Twain is still relevant.

  • Logan

    Though more often than not I do sympathize with the opinions of these satirical pundits, I worry about the potential consequences of stepping outside of one’s traditional public stage. We saw recently a conflict of public identity with Juan Williams straddling the parameters set by FOX and those set by NPR. In that case, the public was not able to interpret Juan simultaneously as FOX and as NPR. Similarly, I wonder if the greater public is able to take seriously the real concerns presented by comic entertainers. As Rep. Lamar Smith rightfully asked of Stephen Colbert at the recent Congressional hearing: “I know you’re an expert comedian. I know you’re an expert entertainer. I know you have a great sense of humor. But would you call yourself an expert witness when it comes to foreign labor issues?”

    As affective and daring as Colbert’s interventionist humor may be, I suspect that his mocking behavior will only fuel fodder to the fire of his opponents. Serious issues call for serious rhetoric.

    -Logan of University of Wisconsin Madison

  • Steve

    …”preaching to the choir”?

    Most people do not even recognize that the water is getting warm…least of all Colbert, Stewart, et. al.

    Take the leap folks.

  • Yar

    I love satire, when I get it, when I don’t, I feel stupid. I seldom get anything but the obvious, and my humor is often accidental.
    Satire is great for building up the base but in the end it often divides. We are in a political schism that is generational, take climate change, the deficit, or healthcare. The 50 plus crowd wants the status quo, under 50 want to build a future that leaves something for them.
    Humor can help escape the burden of current political choices but it doesn’t often bridge the divide between generations.
    The parable is an age old tool that gives empathy and can be seen from different points of view.
    I want a modern Christmas Carol. We have to wake up and prepare our youth so when hand over our country, they will not hate us. After all they are the ones that will feed us in the old age home.
    As the Eskimo say, so many elderly and so little ice. We have to do something about climate change.

  • Michael

    I remember when Colbert first got his show on comedy central and my old roommate would watch it will be, at first (for a good while) he actually thought he was a real conservative telling the truth, and i think at the time many conservatives did as well(hench the invite from bush) after Colbert nailed Bush at the dinner, after that it was funny cause I was watching fox with my old roommate and there were telling there viewers that Colbert is actually not an conservative and trying to make fun of them.

    the link is Colbert on Oreily

  • Michael

    Todd Snider makes some jabs at politics are well,


    How to Speak Republican

  • Nick

    The greatest value of Jon Stewart is that he exposes the hypocrisy of our politicians today by having a staff that can pull contradictorily statements – lies – that they make over time.

    It makes you wonder if any one if Washington DC tells the truth.

  • Michael
  • Sheila Newtown

    In a country where people are constantly at each other and judging who is and isn’t American, sometimes the only tool left is humor. That Colbert and Stewart use it so well is a welcome diversion from the stream of self righteous media naval gazing about what is wrong with our society.Media has become its own celebrity and in a media run country,as with bullies, humor can not only diffuse but empower.

  • Michael

    This is the one that got the guy who made this death threats and NPR in trouble after it was on npr and an month later fox cable news picked up on it,


    on Stewart spoofs Glenn Beck’s

  • Michael
  • Brett

    It took me a while to warm up to Colbert, but he has a great satirical brilliance when on his show as he has to stay in character (a parody of an idiot conservative) no matter what happens. His quickness is particularly apparent when he conducts interviews of his guests.

    I heard that many young people, when asked what they considered Colbert’s political affiliation to be/whether he was being ironic, couldn’t tell for sure if he was a conservative. Some actually thought he was a conservative. I guess satire is wasted on the young…

    Stewart has always been a favorite and is adept at making politics/politicians look absurd. He seems to get his guests to look foolish (when they are being foolish) without being disrespectful.

    I admire the comedy of both men.

  • Holly

    I don’t watch these shows, I don’t even have cable, but I am going to the Rally to Restore Sanity.

    Our society has become so divise and communication so uncivil. (Yesterday’s example, Karl Rove comparing NPR listeners to a dictator who killed thousands of his own countryment. Call me a liberal, fine. But call me Saddam Hussein because you disagree with my listening choices?!)

    Americans have a right to free speech, but as I always tell my children there is a difference between what you can say and what you should say. The point of civility is to make those around you comfortable and to build relationships. Many residents of the US seem to be sorely lacking in the ability to build relationships and find points of common concern with those of differing beliefs.

    I thank Mr. Stewart for reminding us that united we stand, divided we fall.

  • ThresherK

    Where is all the right-wing satire?

  • Chris B, Boston

    >Where is all the right-wing satire?

    Interesting question. From what I’ve seen the only form of “humor” that the the bags ever attempt is sarcasm.

  • Benjamin Plante

    I thought Obama’s apperance last night was some great tv! Stewart is really on top of his game i feel. SOme people argue he is getting old (his antics or style) I dont think so or really care. I mean his is on top of his social / political game!

    Last night was a preview of the great rally on its way!!!!!

  • Zeno

    Some media outlets will ban their employees from attending restore sanity rally: http://www.aolnews.com/politics/article/stewart-colbert-sanity-rally-raises-media-ethics-questions/19691395?icid=main|classic|dl1|sec3_lnk1|180523

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Tom asked the question at the lead in to the show if all this humor is really helping in a dire situation.

    It’s called Gallows Humor Tom!

    Repent, The End is near!

  • Steve

    “The good have lost all conviction, the center cannot hold” -paraphrase of the second coming, I believe.

    When a culture moves to statire or irony, people divide into splinter groups and congratulate their fellow insiders on how clever they are.

    This has been called many things…mannerism, post modernism, diversity…but historically it has signaled decline if not the end-stage of a civilization.

  • Kathryn

    “…many Americans now say they go to comedians for their news – for a more honest, probing take on what’s going on.”

    That’s so dangerous! Opinion isn’t necessarily honesty and its easy to make people agree with you when you present it in a comedic way. We’re just going from one problem source to another when what should be encouraged is self-research. We can’t just eat up whatever the media gives us. TV is the most dangerous since it gives us no time to think or reflect on what we are being fed.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    @jeffe @ 7:35-Try living in a state 20 years behind the times, it is not funny.

  • Peter S

    As Jame Whitmore’s Will Rogers put it, “All you have to do to write humorously about [politics] is to tell what happens!”

  • Kevin

    Jeffe and Charles–

    Is being self-important and arrogant funny? I’m asking because both of you would know, given the nature of your comments.

  • Peter S

    Mr. Beatty says that the president doesn’t use self-deprecating humor; he must have missed the president’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner appearances…

  • Mari

    Humor is a social bonding ritual as much as sport is.
    When lots of people are laughing together it is a powerful experience.
    Very wise of the President to tap this particular emotional resource at this time.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    @Kathryn-10:10-What about the survey that showed Comedy Central Viewers scored higher on current events knowledge? It takes thought to really appreciate what Jon and Stephen are doing for us. They are trying to be the prod we all need to activate and “Take our country back”.

  • Steve

    e pluribus dilabor

    please forgive the bastardization of Latin

  • Trish Lyell

    In response to the current conversation about humor/politics. Jack is saying Obama isn’t self deprecating in his humor: what about his interview with Brian Williams when he talked about being the guy who walks the dog “nothing humbles you like picking up dog poop in the shadow of the White House” Or when he joked about being related to Dick Cheney…or even his birth status. I think his humor is quite good and pointed at himself.

  • Charlie Mc

    Humor, real authentic laugh at yourself humour, is the antidote to insanity. And let’s face it, this country is engaged in an insane and deadly dialogue, where the President has been rejected from day #1 and none of his opponents have given any support in his attempt to turn this nation around.
    I have never seen John Boehner nor Mitch O’Connell ever belly laugh at themselves.
    The debate should be serious, but not solemn. As my mother used to say, “Preserve us from sour faced saints.” Lighten up, America. Thank God for the Falstaffs in our midst.

  • james scott

    Truth is President Obama can’t afford to make light of anything he has done or not done because the one thing the conservative right wants is for him to play right into the notion he doesn’t understand and is above the average American’s problems with this economy. His situation is not one to be taken lightly. Everything the says and does not say will be scrutinized and analyzed for the slightest little hint of him being indifferent and not identifying with this Country’s problem.

  • http://www.kidsmediadiet.org Jean

    We’d be remiss to leave out such classic political satirists as Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, whose unique brands of political humor lightened the burdensome overwhelm of an era’s economic and social challenges.

  • BR

    One value the comedy platforms bring is the removal of a filter and removal of control of the message.

    An example on SNL: One of the “Katie Couric/Palin” skits comprised solely of a direct reading of the interview transcript.

  • Sarah

    Obama would have been slammed for being insensitive to the millions of unemployed Americans if he had shown any sense of humor with Jon Stewart last night.

  • Carrie

    I think people keep quoting that “more Americans go to Stewart and Colbert for their news” and seem to be missing the point. I go to these two because of the way advertisers and big corporations have corrupted “traditional” news. More often then not, Stewart makes fun of the MEDIA and not politicians. I’m convinced that people who say that Stewart/Colbert are aiming at politicians have never actually watched the show. Yes, they jab at politicians (Democrats and Republicans both!) but more often than not, they are taking a swing at the corruption in the media.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    @Kevin at 10:15 I don’t know what I have said that could be considered self-important or arrogant, I am a life-long Kentuckian, I love my state, but being a progressive surrounded by the extremists I see every day is a little discouraging. We consistently shoot ourselves in the foot here and will likely send yet another nut-case to Washington come November 2nd.

  • ThresherK

    Never heard of Scott Scantis, but when it’s about anything besides Chicago (of which I know nothing), his site is full of false equivalency (transgressions of “politicians” apply to the same degree to Dems and Reps) unless it’s Obama-as-Nixon. (With the exception of his take on DADT.)

    Jon Stewart said that The Daily Show does their research because jokes based on non-facts aren’t funny, just stupid. The problem is that makes their work better than half of anyone’s “The Evening News” out there.

    And I don’t know who’s finding the “wit which should be bipartisan is partisan”, too tilted to Democrats? Reality has a well-known liberal bias. Deal with it.

    It would have been nice to have a real liberal, like maybe Tom Toles, to comment on excessive partisanship.

  • John

    Obama tried to be self-deprecating when he made the joke about bowling for the Special Olympics. He did a good job delivering scripted comedic lines at the correspondents dinner, but I don’t think he has a very good sense of humor and he takes himself too seriously. Still, he is much funnier than John Kerry.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Is Stewart on basic cable? Is Colbert on basic cable? No. Does Garrison Keillor continue to do political satire? No. Does Craig Ferguson on CBS late late, who is sometimes pretty daring, dare to do political comedy? No.
    Are Limbaugh and Glenn Beck funny? I don’t know where they are on the dial, but my impression is NO.
    Is Obama funny? Agreed. No.
    Can the mall this weekend change this and make available the existence or availability of political comedy in time to save the election?

  • Katherine

    In response to caller, political comedy is not always damaging, even when a particular politician is being attacked, or serious issues about them are being raised, because political comedy today is extremely polarizing, leaving certain messages only to be soaked up by those who already want to hear it.

  • Chris

    Wow, listening to Scott is like hanging with Debbie Downer

  • Lorna

    Laughing at the Daily Show was the only thing that kept me sane during the Bush administration.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I do see excellent political cartoons. Thank you, cartoonists. How do they insulate themselves from the lack of sense of humor on the left and the right?
    I have it from a horse’s mouth that the Republicans don’t like to be made fun of.

  • Nick

    Comedy has it’s place in society, satire more so.

    But, I don’t think comedy does politics justice when serious, national issues are at stake:
    financial corruption; unemployment; political finance reform; neo-conservatism/John Birch Society vs liberal Democracy; plutocracy vs increasingly plummeting middle class.

    How many comedians are conservative or liberal??

  • Mari

    Sorry, but your guests today are indulging in some of the phoniest laughter I’ve ever heard. “Honesty is subjective.” Now, that’s a real howler! How come nobody laughed- sincerely- at that obviously asinine statement?

  • Jemimah

    Scott Scantis can dish it out, but can’t take it, can he? Why would Nancy Pelosi be good fodder and John Boehner (whose name he mispronounced) not be? Christine O’Donnell’s not comedic?! Scott…

  • Barry

    To say liberal politicians are spared satirical treatment by today’s comedians is simply not accurate. The commentator making this comment has clearly not watched the Colbert Report.

  • Brian M.

    You know why the Daily Show is successful and effective?

    Because in traditional media, you can have a conversation about the Daily Show among 4 people who don’t watch the Daily Show, but who have complete confidence in their assessments, and you ‘balance’ the panel by including a right winger.

    The DS is effective because it’s one of the only shows that calls BS on politicians, rather than coddling them or giving equal credulity to ‘both sides’ by pretending that there is no objective reality.

  • Kathryn

    Charles- There is a difference between knowing facts, and having well-developed opinions on them that haven’t simply been molded by your resources. Too much simple consumption and not enough processing– thats my complaint.

  • Jan P.

    Stewart and Colbert reach well beyond cable subscribers, by the way. My husband and I watch them online.

    The humor that Stewart and Colbert do does poke fun at politicians but also at the media and its foolishness. In short, they poke fun at the constantly recurring foibles of people in general.

    Stewart & Colbert (and their writers) are smart, observant, and self-deprecating, and apply this to the absurdities in our society, particularly (but not only) the political realm. They are right on.


    I love to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report, time permitting, but do I get my news from these shows. Uh no, why would I do that??

  • Keith

    Here in Boston, the song “Charlie on the MTA” was originally political humor. Now he’s the spokestoon for the T.

  • Phillip Morgan

    “Where is the conservatives’ Tina Fey?” It’s hard to be pleasantly humorous when your consumed by hatred and bitterness. Sarcasm only works as humor when in small doses–far below the threshold of the today’s conservatives.

  • Molly Gawura

    If the liberals have a lock on comedy as a podium for their agenda, the conservatives have a lock on anger. Look at the pundits on the right, always yelling about the next disaster. Now that I think about it, I know which I prefer.

  • John

    I just looked at the link to Scott Scantis’s cartoons and they weren’t funny.

  • ymc

    Agree with Lorna above — and even nowadays: if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.

  • ThresherK

    “Here on the right we have (as targets) Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Barney Frank.”

    Joe Biden, as a gaffe machine, v. everybody in the media who can’t stop paying attention to the Alaskan Quitbull?

    I’m getting tired of playing NPR’s favorite panel game, “Where’s the liberal?”

  • Beth

    Quite frankly, Stewart and Colbert are only saying things that most of us are actually THINKING. Stewart’s show last night was outstanding.
    And saying that the democrats are not getting satarized is a disservice to ALL the political comedians out there. Frankly, the dems do stupid things just as often as the repubs and they are called on it more often than I, as a liberal, would like to see.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If Jack Beatty is right that conservative humor in the past was class-based and disparaging toward (if I may try to paraphrase) the moralism of the lower classes, then they completely lost the fount of that stream of humor when they took on board the “moral majority,” the evangelical right, or whatever it’s called.

  • John

    Hi Jack – I am writing from across the river in Norwich. First I must say I am a progressive liberal and I love to laugh at right wing extremists and the current crop of whackos.
    However the danger I see is that the right is very adept at stirring up anger and action, and the left seems to feel that making fun of the right in a intellectually superior way is their answer. Funny, but it does not get the job done

  • Beth

    Also if the conservatives would stop saying and doing such idiotic things, perhaps they wouldn’t be getting picked on so much? Just sayin’. If they are so offended, why aren’t there any conservative jokesters out there?

  • randi levin

    aren’t comedians doing making social commentary the court jesters of today’s royal(political) courts?

  • Ellen Dibble

    The humor of witticisms, turns of phrase — if that was the humor of the Right, maybe emulating the sense of humor of William F. Buckley, well, that is a lot like the super-smarts comedy that is being characterized as the comedy of the liberal left (Stewart and Colbert?). The Democrats coopted the “smartness” of the Right?

  • Keith

    @randi Good point — Shakespeare always gives the truth-telling lines to the fool, since he was the only one who could get away with it.

  • ramona muse

    Last year I saw a taping of the Colbert Report, before the show Mr. Colbert came out and answered questions about politics out of character. He was very gracious and spoke very eloquently. After hearing him out of character, it makes the show that much funnier.

  • Brian M.



    Colbert and Stewart poke fun at the media – and in many ways their criticism of the media is far more devastating (and true) than what they throw toward politicians.

    Of course, the self-serious radio hosts will not mention this.

    Just as they will not book a guest who’s a Daily Show viewer for a show about the Daily Show, thus proving the criticisms of the Daily Show: we’ll invent two sides to this, hear from only one side, and not have anyone who knows anything about the Daily Show.

  • Nick

    Jack Beatty is on to something:

    The Corbet/Daily Shows are rather elitist in their humor + audience targetting: educated Liberal-leaning individuals. (I am a an educated, progressive Liberal + yet I don’t watch either, nor TV, nor cable; I read).

    Given that the majority are less fortunate, (the result of institutional racism, prejudice, elitist discrimination, lack of financial heritage), is it any wonder that they are attracted to more neo-conservative political movements (Tea + Freedom Parties, etc) that promise less taxation, more individual choice, the acquisition of the “American Dream.”

  • Ellen Dibble

    I believe it was Danna Young (the woman on the panel) saying that conservatives like their humor square, tying up the corners, not rocking the boat, turning on twists within the contours of stability. But liberals (Democrats) like the turbulence, and indeed liberals are by definition directed more toward the future — it’s actually the right, if you draw a line along a chronological line; the left is going to the right; the right is going to the right (the past).
    So humor, she says, is by definition different for the two sides, and remains so.

  • Ron Taylor

    While I love satire, I am concerned that part of what is going on today is a dividing between those who see themselves as intellectuals and those who see themselves as hard core pratical realist.

    I sense a feeling of elitist frustration on the one side and defensive righteousness on the other.

  • jim thompson, fort mill,sc


    Who needs professional performers for political comedy? Has anyone watched c-span lately? Now that’s funny…in a tragic ort of way.

    For real laughs just follow Sarah Palin.

  • Ellen

    I think one of the essential elements that is why I enjoy The Daily Show is its ability to point out the absolute inanity present in so much of what passes for “news” among cable TV stations. And what passes for meaningful political dialog among “leaders” of all stripes – hypocrisy, double standards.

    Laughing at these things provides some much needed temporary comfort to me in the face of the pain I feel as I watch today’s money-infused political and media institutions fail to do their work for the good of this country.

  • JD

    I want to echo what Danna said about what partisans on the Right and Left find humorous, and I think it goes way beyond humor. I think it help to frame their political opinions.

    When I was younger I considered myself a conservative, and now I’m far more liberal. I used to approach my politics by trying to come to a position that made logical sense; fit in the box. With this mindset, things like same sex marriage were out of the question; by definition marriage was the union of a man and a woman.

    Now I tend to think in a more open ended solution oriented way, and more often than not I come to a position that would be considered liberal or progressive. Define the problem and find some solution. Same sex partners can make medical decisions? – then give them the right, and I don’t care what you call it.

  • Chris

    A clip by Dennis Miller – when was he ever funny?

  • John

    You have to be detached from your subject in order to be funny. Anyone who cares too much about the feelings of the target, is blinded by personal rage at the target, or is too close to the subject to look at it critically and notice its flaws is unlikely to succeed.

  • Naomi

    Tom asks, “Have comedians always been our truthtellers?” I am reminded of the Fool in King Lear, who is the only one who can speak inconvenient truths to the King. When Lear asks, “Dost thou call me fool, boy?” The fool replies, “All thy other titles thou has given away.”

  • Nick

    In response to Ramona @ 10:45am:

    I’ve never seen a Corbet show, either “live” or broadcast.

    Corbet’s duality is interesting: eloquent, intelligent, politically-aware individual vs the brash, arrogant, comedian.

  • dave

    Mostly, Jon Stewart sort of skits are short, and light-weight, because his audience is too lazy to think about the details in complex arguments. Many of the TEA Party arguments are bigger, and more serious, than this guy and his crowd.

    His sorts of arguments are the old left ideas… he finds it offensive if a guy wants to teach a man to fish, rather than give the man a fish. He would make fun of the guy for going through the complex process of teaching someone to fish, because it is easier to do, and when people come home at night, they want easy ideas and that is what he provides.

  • BHA

    The last caller had a good point:
    - We can’t trust the politicians to tell the truth
    - We can’t trust the media to tell the truth

    What is left? The comedians – they pull the ridiculous things politicians do and say from the news and bring them to light.
    - Yes, they are making fun.
    - Yes, they will have a slant for/against a political ‘side’

    But they are a ‘truth meter’ of sorts.

  • Ruth

    This program’s topic was a relief from all the recent uproar over the upcoming mid-term elections, economic upheaval, and vitriol spewed in this country. Laughter does provide release. Go Jon & Steven!!!

  • John

    The conservatives would over fish, pollute the water, and cut all funding for fishing lessons.

  • Brian M.

    See, this is the problem with this show.

    People like Dave, who clearly don’t watch the DS, think it’s a lightweight compared to the intellectual heft of the Tea Party.

    Yes, that’s it. Exactly.

    Because liberals are stupid and people with Hitler signs are truth-bearers.

    We had an hour commenting on Jon Stewart with a host and guests who don’t watch his show.

  • Nick

    Disappointed that Tom/On Point wasted the last few minutes w/this tuneless, humorless, political musical: Obama!

    So that’s what our donations support!?!

    More talk, less filler!!

  • Steve


    the ability to accept cognitive disonance alone, I do not believe, is a sign of intelligence or creativity – it is a sign of immaturity and flightiness.

    The ability to hold opposing ideas (cognitive disonance) should also lead to hard work and then synthesis.

    American consumerism of the media is increasingly neglecting critical thought and synthesis.

    All fine and good if I am having a beer with the president, not so good if I am to discern his policies and vote.

  • John

    I agree that the show shouldn’t have ended early with that silly song.

  • ThresherK

    Dave, if you’re another one of those low-information consumers of low-information media, I’d love to know what you consider intellectual rigor.

    And for “lightweight”, you’re full of it. Why, just the other night, Daily Show “Senior Correspondent” Wyatt Cenac went from hell-raising muckraker to Beltway Inbred, partying with his sources, in about four minutes.

    If your favorite satirist has done something as pointed and necessary and hilarious, we’d all love to hear about it.

  • click (here) to delete

    Beck and Limbaugh aren’t comedians and don’t portray themselves as such, but each can be funny at times. Limbaugh features a lot of Paul Shanklin who I find hysterically funny. On the other hand I find Colbert tiresome to watch.

  • John

    Paul Shanklin the comedic genius behind Barack the Magic Negro?

  • Kevin

    C’mon Tom-do you not know anything about comedy. Only Danna Young seemed to have any clue what role Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert and particularly Jon Stewart are playing in our society. I keep hearing that statistic that “young people” are getting their news from comedy stated like an indictment of youth instead of what it is – an indictment of media. As a 50 year old guy I gotta say “Thank God” they get news from Jon instead of Bill O’Reilly or Keith Oberman. As long as no reporter is interested in risking a cocktail party invitation to really write what’s going on we HAVE TO HAVE COMEDIANS WHO WILL POINT OUT THE IDIOCY in the media.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I hope the producers of OnPoint will post the name of the writer of the G&S ditty up top. I thought I heard Ronnie Butler, an LA producer, wrote that. And I know there is someone on the NPR show about Wall Street, called Market something, which comes on after ATC, who does a weekly poem about the news of the week, market-wise, which I sometimes think is a terrific boost to what rhyming poetry can do. And I’m thinking maybe that’s the same person. Is it?
    The melody is from HMS Pinafore, “I am the very model of a modern major general,” Gilbert and Sullivan, late Victorian comic opera. And if it had been played a bit slower you could have caught the lyrics. It does a terrific job of encapsulating the Obama campaign, but even at a fast clip is too fast for a TV spot. I’ll find a link on YouTube to the original.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Sorry, it’s from Pirates of Penzance. The major general is the father of the dozens of young ladies who are in the hands of the pirates who have happened upon them all on the beach, and he is explaining his distinctions.

  • John

    Ellen, the poems were by Bill Radke who recently left Marketplace.

  • RobD

    Truth in Comedy! Daily Show and Cobert Report mine the political and media disconnects to reveal the absurd rhetoric and power wrangling by the media especially Fox News. Some of your guests Tom try to put the humor in a bucket and label “It’s Liberal” to minimize and dismiss it as just humor…what?! …maybe Stewart and Cobert have themselves so called “Liberal views” but the truth in their comedy is so revealing the media and pundits changing narratives to serve their own or special interest purpose or for ratings go so extreme on views and mislead viewers by dismissing facts, rational thinking, and even science. So let’s please stop with labeling and putting things in a liberal or conservative box it’s “rational” based in truth vs empty noise jockeying for power and manipulating the masses! There’s a reason the extreme views and non truths are being revealed with humor to show us how ridiculous it’s all become. Comedy making common sense of our insane political landscape. Where’s the love! Partisan politics is so my team vs yours and we say anything to undermine one another! How’s that working for us?!

    I’m an independent and Stewart and Cobert discover the truth through comedy and their teams and writers spend the time to act like a political and media watch dog with humor for our benefit so we can laugh at the absurdity!

    I plan to go to rally to restore sanity in DC!

  • Tim Reppert

    One of the guests on the show said something about Stewart/Colbert that Stewart would say something just to sound smart and that he should try to speak more to the common man. I appreciate his ability to ask intelligent questions. I think politicians on the right are increasingly uneducated. And make no mistake I didn’t finish college but I think our leaders, if not academically educated, should at least be as smart as me, not just charismatic. And I’m drawn to Stewart/Colbert because I want intelligent perspective that asks hard questions so I can learn, not juts follow. I fear that this is another attempt by the right to dumb down the U.S.

  • Sam Osborne


    So why is this sensitive detector of the climate still in here swimin’ around with all us fish? Meanwhile:

    I’m a little teapot,
    Short and stout,
    Here is my handle (one hand on hip folks),
    Here is my spout (other arm out with elbow and wrist bent, folks),
    When I get all steamed up,
    Hear me shout,
    Tip me over and pour me out! (lean over toward spout, and kiss your warm ^$$ goodbye, et. al. folks).

  • Ellen Dibble

    My post of the Major General’s Song was adapted for sing-along, and it is nice because it displays the words. But I’m looking for a more, um, professional version. Here is the pirates singing. I do think of them as the bankers and corporate types. Enjoy.

  • HP

    “Where is the conservatives’ Tina Fey?”

    Um, who do you think Sarah Palin is? She would be funny, if the thought of her as POTUS weren’t so scary.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Here you go. From D’Oyly Carte, from the original tradition of G&S. So far 387 views, I think, but truly vintage.
    I am the very model of a modern major general.

  • Les Wetmore

    Dave@ 10:56,
    I sorry you feel that way. I would say that the audience held be Stewart/Cobert is generally very well informed. That is why the scketches are short and to the point–look at the hypocrocy. We don’t need to be filled in, we are already in the know.
    Your tried, over simplified story about teaching a man to fish proves nothing about Stewart. It is an attempt to make a simple aurgument in a complex world to keep small minded people from thinking bigger. That seems to be the tea party in a nutshell. That and to re-write history for there benefit. To paraphrase:We need to go back to the constitution and save the free market. Huh? I’m pretty sure Adam Smith was not contempory to the writing of the constitution.

  • Sam, Osborne


    Hey, the right wing is doing its heroic best in making life more merry; they provide fodder for really funny stuff and the more serious right wingers become the funnier it gets.

    So, Colbert and Stewart satirize the right wingers because it is funny, funny, funny, man, funny.

  • michael

    The DODT before and after cartoon by Scott Scantis wasn’t to bad compare to the other stuff he had.

  • michael

    The show did remind me of people talking about rap and hip hop music in the 90′s yet all the people talking about it did not listen to it.

  • Brett

    I’m having fish for dinner; grouper for those keeping track. Of course, I didn’t catch the fish–no, sir–but, I’m NOT just one of those lazy leftists who has the government inspect my fish that someone else (probably some hard-working conservative fisherman sort) caught for me and lost money on because of those damned environmentalists who want to take away our fishing rights!

    Actually, one of my friends caught the fish; this is the free market as it should be. “Send a man to the store for some fish and he will not be guaranteed it is not rank and spoiled; teach a man to pay for fish from his friends and he will get fresh fish from a fisherman unencumbered by regulation and corporate interests.” We, the people, must take our fishing back! The government’s solution to lack of fish: simply rely more on government regulated commercial fishing! Nay, I say, we need to catch our own fish so that our children’s children do NOT have to pay the price for over-regulated, government fish!!!

    The fish party IS Sarah and Todd Palin in 2012!!! They’ll teach us how to fish, they’ll teach us, they’ll…

  • jeffe

    @jeffe @ 7:35-Try living in a state 20 years behind the times, it is not funny.
    Posted by Charles A. Bowsher

    Who said it was, one could move I suppose.

    Jeffe and Charles–

    Is being self-important and arrogant funny? I’m asking because both of you would know, given the nature of your comments.
    Posted by Kevin

    Well Kevin how is quoting Mark Twain self-important and arrogant?

    “We are all erring creatures, and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticize.”

    “There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.”

    More Mark Twain.

  • Maridon

    I was listening to your show as I was heading out the door to work. I had every intention of tuning back in when I got there but discovered the end of the Colbert Report was on, so I watched that instead.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If the Republicans are the “teach-em-to-fish” party, then why are they so hand-it-to-big-business, let-the-corporate-raiders-have-their-way-with-us? That is the please-give-us-corporate-sponsored-jobs party, that is the please-don’t-make-us-think-for-ourselves party.
    There is a difference between “thinking” for oneself, in which case one might find it more efficient to stick to one’s own career and let the fishermen do the fishing, versus being thrown out on one’s kiester (sp?) and told to go back to eating found food, fish and berries, which sometimes sounds like the version of independence being touted.
    I will think for myself. I will cooperate when it comes to doing everything else.
    Wait. I listen to others when I am confused, for instance. So…

  • Steve V

    Another aspect of “humor” in our society involves the “Jackass Movies” where people do crazy stunts to gain attention. There are also TV shows dispicting these same events. I spent 15 years as an EMT on a local ambulance and cannot watch any program with such behavior. I’ve seen the broken bones, lost teeth, and permanent injury resulting from such acts (and they never mention who pays for the medical care). Yet others can find humor and entertainment in these shows. Watching people injure themselves is a real disconnect from reality, let alone actually being the participant.

  • Jim in Omaha

    @dave at 11:56

    Now THAT’S funny!

  • Sam E.

    The Goode Family was a pretty great recent satire of the left wing FWIW.

  • Stevo

    Weird thing is people calling Stewart a leftist. Dana Milbank did today.. saying Stewart was the “gatekeeper of the disillusioned left”.

    It’s been bugging me. No, these guys aren’t leftists. They’re just funny and really smart. Ran into a piece that gets at the same point:


  • jeffe
  • William

    Obama is not acting very Presidential.

  • http://www.lauriedoctor.com Laurie Doctor

    I enjoy this program so much! Tom has a quality of being sharp and sensitive- unusual combination.

    Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert transcend the rules of media and politics. They are inspiring because they rise above the cartoon separation between left and right that gets almost all of the attention of media- and they provide a fresh approach. The best recent example is Stephen Colbert’s testimony to Congress after spending a day with migrant workers in California. His commitment to humanity surpasses any division of
    political parties. I am looking forward to this weekend in DC, it is hopeful in an otherwise polarized world.

  • Gordon

    Last night’s interview was one of the most substantive conversations with a politician about policy I have seen in a long time. The sad truth is the that much of the “mainstream media” has devolved into craven irrelevancy by holding the truth to be somewhere between opposing narratives, no matter what the facts are. The problem is there, not in people like Stewart or Colbert who at least hold people responsible for their statements and actions, within a common-sense ethic of accuracy and the greater good.

  • John Brock

    comedy is scewed to the left, because conservatives and republicans say and do more funny (ie stupid) things in general than liberals. George Bush said something absurd on a daily basis. Obama is harder to make fun of because he speaks thoughtfully and with a basis in reality. Its much easier to make fun of people who’s viewpoints are hipocritical and not based in reality, which more times than not pertains to the right.

  • Chen

    How did they hide Obama’s teleprompter?

  • David Fentress

    I think “On Point” is a great show. I listen to it as much as I can. However, I really dislike that theme music. That high percussuion a the beginning is intrusive and overbearing, like so much of the noise in the media nowadays. That’s the kind of thing I hope to get away from when I listen to NPR. Please change it!

  • Michele R.

    Has Jack Beatty ever watched The Daily Show or Colbert Report? They make fun of both parties who prove themselves to be equally idiotic. Often John Stewart takes aim at Dems more than Republicans.

  • John Myers

    Wow I really like the intro song to ‘On Point’ – it gets my blood up. It’s a flamenco war horse.
    About today’s show; Dennis Miller to me is in no way humorous. I don’t get him.

  • cory

    I agree about Dennis Miller. He just seems crabby and dour now. A witty liberal in youth, a crabby old guy who has joined the wealthy elite in this country.

  • cory

    It is often said that liberals can’t do talk radio well. I’ll take that point and offer that rightys are a bit weak in the realm of comedy.

  • Mike Smith

    One of the most successful political comedians of today is Glenn Beck; I was surprised that his show did not get discussed during this show. Taking his cues from an old “Kids in the Hall” skit starring Dave Foley, he makes completely outrageous statements and conjectures, maintaining a completely straight-faced personae the while, even while revealing his final nonsensical conclusion. He will, of course, say anything for the sake of getting to his punchline (such as “America was founded by Conservatives”) and doesn’t bother with any disclaimers stating which purported “facts” used in his show are actually based in reality, but his ability to manufacture social and political equations which are the equivalent of the mathematical gymnastics needed to prove that 1 and 1 are 5 is always entertaining.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Re: the OnPoint theme music. It doesn’t bother me, but it doesn’t please me either. The nicest radio talk show music, to my ears, is the theme from the Diane Rehm show: that happy trumpet and playful piano really sing to me.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Sam E mentioned “the Goode Family” as decent satire of the left wing.

    The show sure didn’t last long (2 episodes? 3?), so it didn’t really have a chance to do anything. I recall the first episode was sharper in satirizing those creepy right-wing Christian chastity pledges than anything to do with leftist culture. The second episode, about the animal too disgusting for even PETA to love (but not too gross for the reactionary grandpa character) seemed to have the same focus.

    It was pretty much what I’d expected from the creators: a King of the Hill from the left rather than the Texan right. It might have gone on to be decent, but now we’ll never know.

  • millard_fillmore

    For all those who are saying the left is humorous whereas the right is not, let’s not forget The New Yorker cover in 2008 and how the liberals twisted their undies over it. Let me also see a show of hands as to how many liberals are comfortable with making jokes about Islam (I can safely assume that no one will be perturbed if a joke regarding Christianity is cracked).

    Thought so. :)

  • Joseph Novak

    Political satirists are no different than political comentators. Republican or Democrat. Conservative or Liberal.

    I enjoy that satire aimed at the absurdity (i.e. President Bush “Mission Accomplished” not degrading cartoonish depictions of President Obama and the First lady as islamic terorrists).

  • joshua

    i totally agree with the female guests evaluation of left and right humour and change and deconstructing establishment. If rightist people have humor it is very square, but it is also sick–based on cruel white supremacy and racially inclined–degrading other people–such as environmentalists and Mexicans or anyone. A humanist becomes a tree-hugers-hahhahhah–im slapping my knee. Right humor is childish and evil and or square, dry and boring grandpa humor–word puns that nobody laughs at unless its your grandpa that you love. but then it only warrants a chuckle or a slight smile. People on the right are far too serious about everything because they cant understand.

  • jeffe

    Well one of the best and brightest comedians to have graced the planet was the late George Carlin, and as far as I know he was a Libertarian.

    The late Hunter S. Thompson was also Libertarian or so it seemed, and hilarious in his biting satire of the American political scene.

    Bill Hicks was pretty amazing, he was kind of left wing and kind of not. Definitely not PC.

    Wow, I just realized that all the people I posted here are no longer alive.

    I should save the best for last. Richard Pryor.

  • joshua

    In general, American humor, on TV, is mostly dumb, lughing soundtracks at nothing. CHildish. It lacks substance. You’re fat–hahahha. Im not entertained. British humor is mostly clever. Why is it funny just to say to the president you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do–hahhha–does that really make you laugh? Some of stewert is funny, but a lot of it is just rubbish antics that make feel like i wasted my time. i dont feel like his jokes come from some enlightened place.

  • jeffe

    joshua you’re watching the wrong stuff.
    Go to You Tube and watch some Pryor, Carlin and Hicks and I guarantee you will be laughing. Again, Pryor especially the “That N**ger’s Crazy” album.

    He’s not American but hilarious, Eddie Izzard.


  • Joshua Hendrickson


    “allah allah allollipop”

    There. Terrible joke (if even that) but there you go. Taken from an animated cartoon of the racists 1930s.

    Yes, a lot of liberals got their undies in a wad over that New Yorker cover, excepting those of us who saw it as a satire on what the right wing had been (and still does) say about Obama. I get satire, hence, was not offended (and was amused by the “fist bump” at least).

    Your serve.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    dividing kinds of humor by politics? Danna’s quotes:

    “intolerance for ambiguity”–that definitely applies to the rightwing mindset; they are typically authoritarian.

    “puns and wordplay and wit and punchlines” might be more appreciated by the right as she claims, but I am not yet certain.

    “irony … things left unresolved” more appreciated by the left, definitely.

    This is worth considering.

    Sorry, Jack–but Jon Stewart comes off as “smarter than them” because he pretty much is. The more we play into the “anti-elitist” hands of the right, the more we on the left will be stuck with having to deny our intelligence, just like our enemies.

  • CT Wood

    Liberals = satirize the actions of pompous, self-important, fact-abusing powerful (politicians, corporations and pundits)
    ~ Stewart, Colbert, Lewis Black, Bill Maher
    ~ Doonesbury

    Conservatives = ridicule the powerless who are different and considered enemies of ‘real’ America.(homeless, minorities, and any ‘outsiders’ i.e. gays, Muslims,and their favorite target, so-called tax and spend Democrats)
    ~ Limbaugh, Beck, Dennis Miller,
    ~ Mallard Fillmore

    Also, Jack needs to put down his Proust and actually listen to those media folks he cites. While Jack admitted he doesn’t listen much to Limbaugh when he spoke to the drugster’s Magic Negro parody, (he might have mentioned the more egregious ‘hilarious’ parody “Don’t Got a Home,” slamming the the homeless); Jack’s references to Stewart’s and Colbert’s material is obviously based on only slight hearing or reading.

    Alas, Jack had little to offer on the state of current political humor and should have stuck with that material of a generation or two ago.

  • Don

    Brian M. at 10:34 am for the win – thank you for finding the irony of this panel discussion, whereas I just spent my time frustrated by it.

    No one in this conversation seemed to draw a line separating out the sorts of jokes that say little or nothing about the target. The Nixon “fifteen feet of rope” bit said nothing about Nixon, really – you could hear the same joke about Obama on a Fox newscast or Bohner on MSNBC, and I’m sure some of the pundits and some of the audience would think the observation was exposing something profound.

    I guess all the left/right babbling of this panel makes sense in the context of people who can’t put their finger on the difference between Stewart’s six minute expose regarding the irony of a major Fox shareholder being some of the money behind the Park 51 Islamic cultural center project, and Jay Leno noting that the President’s ears are big.

  • millard_fillmore

    “Conservatives = ridicule the powerless who are different and considered enemies of ‘real’ America.(homeless, minorities, and any ‘outsiders’ i.e. gays, Muslims,and their favorite target, so-called tax and spend Democrats)
    ~ Limbaugh, Beck, Dennis Miller,
    ~ Mallard Fillmore

    Posted by CT Wood”

    CT Wood, so in your world, all minorities:
    1. Are a monolith with no diversity and no individual history.
    2. Are the other – that is, they should never be made fun of, as opposed to “not other”/”us” who are OK to be the butt of jokes.
    3. Are angels and can do no wrong.

    Seems to me that your patronizing views are a re-hash of the “Noble Savage” and “White Man’s Burden” hypothesis. Do you still subscribe to such outdated nonsense? If so, may I ask why?

    Additionally, in your view, do the “minorities” have any say in how they are viewed by you, or do they have to play the role of the oppressed victims, whether they like it or not, whether the facts support such a view or not? I guess as long as a person is a Muslim (Osama Bin Laden, Irshad Manji, Keith Ellison, Faisal Shahzad) or black (Clarence Thomas, Chris Rock, Oprah, Juan Williams, Obama, Condi Rice), they are automatically part of the “minority” and share one single narrative of being oppressed/victimized, whether that narrative applies to them or not. Amazing!!

    Here’s a perfect example–
    When victimhoods collide: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/officials-condemn-beating-of-gay-man-in-queens/

  • Joshua Hendrickson


    in the world of free speech, I would argue that it is equally permissible to make fun of the powerful and the powerless. However, I wouldn’t claim that making fun of the powerful and the powerless are equal on moral terms. And if it is pretentious of the left to be condescending to the powerless, how much more pretentious is it for the right to suck up to the powerful?

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Ellen asks,

    “If the Republicans are the “teach-em-to-fish” party, then why are they so hand-it-to-big-business, let-the-corporate-raiders-have-their-way-with-us?”

    Because that’s how you fish.

  • millard_fillmore

    “in the world of free speech, I would argue that it is equally permissible to make fun of the powerful and the powerless. However, I wouldn’t claim that making fun of the powerful and the powerless are equal on moral terms. And if it is pretentious of the left to be condescending to the powerless, how much more pretentious is it for the right to suck up to the powerful?”

    Joshua, are you really arguing that people like Chris Rock (black), Obama (black), Oprah (black), Osama Bin Laden (Muslim), are powerless or represent some powerless minority (also assumes that minorities are monolithic)????? Or are you arguing that only white people are powerful and rest all non-white people are powerless, even if they are rich and powerful??

    And, sorry, I’ve said this before – I don’t look at the world through the false dichotomy of left and right. That kind of ideological outlook just doesn’t appeal to me at all and comes across as horribly outdated, and leads to laughable conclusions. Furthermore, neither is such a view backed by empirical facts.

    Anyway, I’d let CT Wood respond to my comment.

  • Daniel

    I rarely comment on your shows, but Jack Beatty’s “analysis” of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report sounded so obviously anecdotal that I felt it necessary to chime in. Jack Beatty seems to be doing what many people who don’t actually watch either The Daily Show or The Colbert Report do: he is confusing Stewart’s and Colbert’s personal political philosophies with their shows. Both shows have mined just as much material out of this president and congress (and in particular, this most recent election cycle, which was a gold mine) as the last. I would argue that, more than targeting politicians, both shows ultimately target the major news networks, and in particular the manner in which those networks cover politics and politicians (and in particular, of course, Fox News). I would encourage Mr. Beatty to watch a few weeks of both shows before he next renders an opinion on them; all of the episodes are available online.

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    Sam osborne at 11:31 10/28/2010 hilarious
    I’m a little teapot,
    Short and stout,
    Here is my handle (one hand on hip folks),
    Here is my spout (other arm out with elbow and wrist bent, folks),
    When I get all steamed up,
    Hear me shout,
    Tip me over and pour me out! (lean over toward spout, and kiss your warm ^$$ goodbye, et. al. folks).
    Posted by Sam Osborne, on October 28th, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    Daniel at 10:16 11/02/2010 thank you

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

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