Category Archives: Satire
With the recent crediting of Jon Stewart as helping to move along the 9/11 First Responders bill by dedicating an entire show to its passage, he may have made important strides beyond “advocacy satire” and into a realm some journalists have rightly, and often wrongly, traversed: advocacy journalism.
I like the first term because it gives satire its due credence that is often discounted as non-serious or not to be taken as such. Much of this blog is reflective of my academic interests, most of which have sought to figure humor and satire’s current place in our culture. In the last few months I finally feel like im getting close. I recently received my first revise and resubmit notice from the journal of Journalism: Theory and Practice on an essay I wrote last spring on Stewart and Colbert as public journalists that tried to tackle this idea. They want me to go further.
Which is what Stewart and Colbert are doing. A major component to public journalism as outlined by Jay Rosen and Davis “Buzz” Merritt is that taking matters of public importance into account is a much needed journalistic practice. But they are also quick to warn that it is not the same as journalists advocating for specific positions, a consideration I went to great lengths to illustrate Stewart and Colbert were taking.
All of that seems to have been thrown out the window in the past few months. The much hyped and misunderstood, rallies to restore both sanity and/or fear were met with much criticism in the mainstream press for the two comedians overstepping their bounds and creating their own spectacle. Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress on the plight of migrant workers in light of a recent farm bill was soundly discarded.
But lo did Stewart bounce back with an actual legislative win! The 9/11 First responders bill special marked a significant point where Stewart was rightly credited and praised for raising a significant issue, in his own way, while acknowledging that he was right in skewering those he thought were responsible for its blockage. Republicans. Allowing NY firefighters and police to come on the show and state their case, while hearing their voices shaken by the ravages of cancer from Ground Zero, became un-debatable. And as the NY Times pointed out Stewart may be actually moving into the role of satire advocate journalist with this episode, comparing him to Edward R. Murrow in the process. Take that Keith Olbermann!
In light of this, I do not feel that Stewart and Colbert have wholly abandoned the notion of public journalism in the sense laid out by either Rosen or Merritt. In order to understand the influence of Stewart and Colbert I think it is helpful to create an ironic understanding of their intellectual and journalistic posturing. That is, they are “Ironic Intellectuals”: their authority stems from the very disavowal of any serious authority. Their humor and absurdity are precisely what give them a sobering sincerity so badly needed.
It is also what enables us to understand their straddling of journalist/comedian. They can be both and we can understand them as both. I’ll be playing with this idea more in the coming months as comprehensive exams and dissertations loom on the horizon. In the meantime watch Stewart’s speech and offer some thoughts on the matter.
So I finally did it. After a year and a half photoshopping images, writing cover letters, and tracking down addresses, I finally sent off my thesis to The Colbert Report today. Actually it’s kind of embarrassing it took me to find that last part, seeing as I ended up settling for the fan mail address.
Either way I’m pretty excited about it, and proud of myself for actually going through it. As I mentioned in Part 1 this was always part of the plan when I originally wrote the thing. The cover letter my former speech coach and I included, yes- a cover letter, this is a professional operation, we hope Colbert’s staff won’t react in the same way as my graduate committee.
Much to the horrified surprise of my thesis committee, I am sending this project to you and your staff as what I hope is not the oddest tribute you’ve received.
I still think I’m in the running for odd tributes with the photos we made. I showed some of them in the last post but really went for it on others. This is the one I actually fastened to the envelope.
Man I love Photoshop (And So Can You)!
If it gets in the right hands it would be only the 6th copy ever distributed. If you yourself are intrigued, and still reading at this point, you can see a version of the thesis in the Arizona State University Hayden Library, or when I figure out how to upload them here.
These should arrive in New York sometime early next week. Then it is your move Colbert. Please don’t throw it out.
From day one I treated graduate school as a joke. Before I even arrived in the Arizona desert to begin my Master’s program at ASU I knew I wanted to write my thesis on The Colbert Report. I spent the next year and a half figuring out what it would look like. As I put the final touches and prepared to graduate I also knew I wanted to send it to him. I actually told my graduate committee that my ultimate plan for this 120 page masterpiece was not to get it published but to get on the show. It was definitely quite a thing to say during my defense, “sorry to break it to you all but this was just an elaborate plan to get on TV.”
A thesis about a comedy show, especially one that rhetorically analyzes it, should have some jokes in for good measure. I had to take the writing somewhat seriously on account of the whole “they are going to give me a graduate degree for this” and all. So I opted to save it for the dedication page. Which reads as such:
This thesis is dedicated to Stephen Colbert, an American hero who truthily “gets it.” Thanks for agreeing to have me on your show.
This project has now been in the making longer than my Master’s program. In the two years since my thesis defense my friends and I have come with some great ideas. I’ve got the cover letter ready and a series of photoshopped images of Colbert reading my thesis, as I am sure he is dying to do. The one at the right is one of my faves.
Too good to pass up right?
Obviously I’ve already run into a few roadblocks, namely that I can’t get anyone at Comedy Central to return my emails. Minor details. I think the next step is to clearly send it anyway and see what happens. Maybe if I tape one of the images to the outside of the package they’ll have to take it. I mean look at the craftsmanship on that Photoshop!
When I first started getting this going my friend Lydia suggested I write about the process of sending my thesis to The Colbert Report. So this is my initial chronicling of a journey that I am certain will only end with immense fame and fortune. Or a thank you note. I’d take that too.
What this all boils down to is this: The only thing read by less people than my thesis is this blog. I’m hoping to change both of those.
This will be the first of what I am sure shall be a widely recurring column for Faination readers. Quick backstory: when I first started graduate school in Arizona back in the PT era (Pre-Twitter) some friends and I started using the term “baller” to reveal our opinion on all sorts of topics/ideas/people/etc. As time has gone on it has become a regular part of my vocabulary and that of others whom I have met over the years. Generally I have avoided giving a definition, preferring instead to let use create understanding. However, loosely defined “baller” denotes a sense of awesomeness; akin to “cool” or “boss” for our friends of the 1970s (though I have always felt this term should also make a comeback. That would be baller). Additionally to say someone is “balling things up” generally means they are being “baller” in their actions. Usually this is accompanied by a sense of telling it like it is or putting someone or something in their place, often with a healthy dose of humor thrown in.
Much of what I do academically, comedically, and socially is in the service of “balling things up.” As such it is only fair that I attempt to make it a regular occurrence here so that readers (if/when I obtain them) can better understand what it means to be “baller”, both as theory and application.
In this inaugural post I turn to an environmental crisis that is actually not baller: the ongoing BP/Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Long story short on April 20 an oil rig drilling more than a mile underwater ruptured, currently spilling thousands of gallons a day into the Gulf and beginning to reach land all over the place. Estimates on how much daily oil varies but the estimates keep climbing. It’s so bad that President Obama dedicated his first Oval Office Press Conference to addressing the issue. A sobering review of the spill can be found here , and pictures here . Not baller at all.
Now for the baller part. There is a new twitter account aimed at addressing the the massive PR storm. Only this one is balling up BP for real. I’m talking about @BPGlobalPR . Launched on May 19, this twitter account has been subtlely, yet brilliantly mocking the response by BP to the spill, as well as BP’s official twitter responding to the disaster. Apparently it’s worked (or not depending on your opinion). Not only has the fake BP twitter garnered over 165,000 followers in less than a month, it has also sparked the attention of both the actual BP and Twitter who have asked a notification be placed on the account to key users in on its fake status.
Here is a smathering of some of the tweets placed by @BPGlobalPR that have the uptight polluters, who knew, so upset:
We’re paying Google a lot of money to make sure you only have access to the best possible info on the oil spill: our info.
Surprised ourselves by getting emotional on the coast today. Turns out the wind blew dispersant in our eyes #BPrebrand
In case you missed our latest magic show, we made a fire vortex on the water! Tada! #bpmagic
Will Twitter please shut down @BP_America – no one can tell if it’s a joke! #bprebrand
The last one is especially fun given the pressure applied by actual BP to help their image. However, here’s a thought. Rather than worry about what some dude is saying about your screw up to make a joke about the way you are handling it, HOW BOUT WORRYING ABOUT THE ACTUAL SPILL! It seems as though for a time @BPGlobalPR did bend to the pressure, instead of breaking from it like the actual PBP oil rigs. The satirical twitter did indicate that it was fake, but not before having the last laugh. @BPGlobalPR’s bio was changed to read:
We are not associated with British Petroleum, the company that has been destroying the Gulf of Mexico for 51 days.
In the study of rhetoric a key element in the understanding of parody and satire is that the creator must give a clue, a small wink to let viewers know that they are being deceived. These winks are generally somewhat hidden, playing on the idea that people do not expect to be deceived so will not recognize the clues even if they are placed in front of them. Aside from that they may simply not get the joke. @BPGlobalPR seems to function with the former while @BP_America is clearly the latter. The twitter account has since changed its bio, this time to remove all literal indications that it is satire. Nevertheless, for technically bowing to the pressures of mighty BP, while simultaneously getting another well-deserved jab in at them in the process, I think @BPGlobalPR is an excellent choice for the inaugural Ballin’ It Up.