Political satirical humour is full of irony and aimed at ridiculing, exaggerating and absurdly exposing those in political power through social commentary. In politics it exposes the attitudes, practices and beliefs of the politician, political party or government and in a democratic society is accepted, although this is not acceptable with other less democratic spheres and often with dangerous consequences and repercussions. Danish cartoonist Jyllands- Posten created religious images which resulted in him receiving death threats and many other satirical creators are controversial. Politicians as people exposed in full political view leave themselves exposed to criticism. Political repercussions are possible in satire in the real world if defamation of character can be proved. In authoritarian or totalitarian societies satire can be seen as defamatory and can mean serious repercussions and even in democratic societies high profile figures will defend their public image if they feel their reputation is being damaged.

I would question then why is it so important in western politics and in particular in British politics? Many politicians criticise each other e.g. in the House of Commons and we need to question why they allow this to happen if their own reputation and dignity is at steak? Is it due to the fact that they leave themselves open and exposed to their opponents with different views and opinions or is it that by allowing themselves to be ‘set up’ they expose themselves to being seen as human, able to relate / connect through humour with their public? Satire I feel aims to take some of the power away from the people in authority who rule our lives by exposing them publicly, allowing the viewing public to reveal the politicians true self.  If the commentary/art manages to target its victim accurately then it has the power to disempower its victim and could perhaps be liked to a form of bullying, if it were not humorous.

Satirical humour I feel is a form of journalism which is often very obvious to the viewer but requires the writer to create with intelligence and sharp, quick wit in a form of artistic expression. Publications such as Private Eye have long being involved in exposing politicians in their true light and connect with the public through humour to ridicule and use their journalistic skills to enlighten the public in a way that captures an audience through the use of humour.

The public also enjoy fictional satirical comedy which is takes the form of ‘sending up’ those they portray in power often depicting them as targets of fun and humiliation. In considering the many forms of satirical art it is important that the work is accurate which relies on being well informed. Politicians often rely on comedy writers supplying them with up to date one liner’s for them to use as banter material in the House of Commons and this can be likened to similar one liner’s in satire. This is seen as a type of weapon they can use on their opponent. Television programmes i.e. Spitting Image (1984-1996), The Thick of It and Yes Prime Minister are examples of politicians being portrayed as ridiculous. Cartoonist satire relies on artists communicating their own ideologies, beliefs, and views to their public and I feel requires them to hold strong beliefs in the message they are conveying.  The satire ranges from the light hearted puppetry to dark political comedy set in British government and many of the scenes are remembered many years after the events.

Political satire programmes such as Have I got news for you use the ridiculing of politicians through comedy with sharp witted, well informed, intelligent  humour to expose and report news that might have been overlooked by the viewing public had it not been included with in a comedy programme. Satire is evidence that in the west we have political freedom to journalistic reporting in this way. I believe that satire simply acts as a platform to highlight public attention to polemic news in a simple yet democratic way.

Lloyd (2010), in Bremner et al (2010) suggests that political satire may have gone too far suggesting that ‘Satire that is polemic can turn ugly and authoritarian’ and that satire has simply been a forum for mocking politicians and has led to a media led agenda, transforming them into activists. He suggests that satire fails to allow for explanation, balance and analysis and in the US this has taken over the serious nature of politics suggesting that in the UK may have retained it however I would question if we are going the same way and if so does it matter?  Jay (2010), in Bremner (2010) however see’s satire simply as a weapon used by those with a political objective to expose a political argument although he sees politics as just being a rich area of comedy.  Bremner (2010) suggests that the lines are blurred between satire and the serious journalistic reporting citing the humour used by BBC journalist Nick Robinson meaning that the element of outrage is dissipated. Satire as Coe (2010) in Bremner (2010) suggests simply challenges the establishment, however he also questions that instead of laughing we should be protesting and that the people satire is aimed at do not object because they understand that satire is a ‘useful safety valve and a powerful weapon for preserving the status quo’. 

In the US many young people appear to be getting their politics from comedies such as The Daily Show rather than watching the serious journalistic news. In the 2008 elections there was the largest turn out of youth voting in the US and we could question if this is because comedy within politics is viewed on an increasing scale and has become a reputable source of information rather than simply entertainment. Is this therefore a way of engaging people in a more easily understandable format and why politicians are ready to accept it?

Bremner R et al (2010), Arts, Has political satire gone too far? 11th September 2010, Available at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/5784ac84-bc50-11df-8c02-00144feab49a.html#axzz2KVK6pVfj (Accessed 1st February 2013)

Private Eye (2013) Available at: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/ (Accessed 10th February 2013)

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AuthorOliver Perry