What’s in a Joke?

While watching last weekend’s cold open for Saturday Night Live, I found myself wondering how funny the show would be if it couldn’t rely on satirizing politicians. The episode provided a running answer to that question. From the “Oscar the Grouch” parody to “Weekend Update,” it put pop culture itself squarely in its cross hairs. The cold open offered nearly the only political moment of the night.

Conservative politicians–especially Pres. Trump–have often complained that the show’s content veers so far to the left that its parent network, NBC, ought to offer equitable air time to comedians whose political views skew middle-right.

I suspect that those politicians miss the point of the show entirely. Satire works best when aimed at those in power or seeking power. As Saturday’s show suggested, it’s hard to sustain satire of the Democratic nomination process when Democrats themselves have no idea who will emerge from the primary victorious. (They also tend to parse their thoughts much more carefully, which results in less exposure to satire than someone like Pres. Trump.)

Of course, there’s another possibility: that liberals are simply funnier than conservatives.

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8 Responses to What’s in a Joke?

  1. Gracie Rowland says:

    First of all, I absolutely agree with the possible assertion that liberals are funnier than conservatives. Liberals use much more creative expletives, and most have a deep rooted appreciation of John Mulaney stand up specials. Also, in my experience, most die-hard conservatives employ rape and holocaust jokes in their “humor”, while most middle or left leaning comedians actually make creative, non-offensive jokes. But I digress. I think that the prevalence of political satire in media plays an important role in preventing the idolization of political figures. Heck, it also provides pretty good material for late night tv.

  2. Jordan says:

    I agree that liberals are simply funnier than conservatives. Many people like to claim that liberals are snowflakes, because they don’t find offensive jokes funny. I disagree. I believe liberals are funnier because they don’t make jokes that come at the expense of people they deem as lower than them. Liberals get more creative when they make jokes instead of the same offensive ones that conservatives claim. However, satire is a common comedic strategy between both parties. It just depends on how far they go on if it’s a necessary laugh or not.

  3. Will says:

    Coming from a Conservative point of view I do think that it is a bit biased to say that a single demographic is funnier than another. On the topic of SNL I do personally like the show and its multiple comedians. On the topics of conservatives complaining about the show I think that if you watch SNL left wing views just come with the territory. NBC is a primarily liberal channel and its views are going to be very much skewed that way. I personally think that it is a funny show that covers a wide array of topics usually. The only thing that I dislike about the show is that the comedic value of them making fun of Donald Trump has grown stale because of how much they use the same scenarios. Sure the Trump sketches or jokes on weekend update about him are funny but I get really bored of the show when all they do is make fun of him.

  4. Blake Cheater says:

    I personally think that funny people are, well, funny. In my opinion, it does not matter whether you are a conservative or liberal. The topics conservatives and liberals joke about may vary, and people find different things funny. Satire is incredibly important, and SNL does an ok job of using it. It can get quite repetitive as they generally make fun of just one person, and the notion that it would be hard to joke about democratic candidates because no one knows who will win is rooted out of pure laziness. It’s easy to make fun of Donald Trump, just about half the country hates him, and most of SNL’s viewers. Making fun of democratic candidates is hard, most of SNL’s viewers identify with one of those candidates. If liberals are as funny as some say, then they should be able to make a good skit involving the democratic candidates.

  5. William Shy says:

    The two party system, in the words of the great John Adams, is “the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” We have let political parties divide us and determine our every thought. We have lost the ability to think for ourselves and instead invariably side with our personal political party. This has made us both extremely sensitive and offensive. A member of either party seems to get hugely offended whenever a political joke is told, depending on who it is directed at. Even if you don’t agree with the political leanings of the person telling the joke, you can at least appreciate the humor. A joke is a joke, and every joke, no matter what kind, is told at the expense of someone else. We shouldn’t let our political differences affect our sense of humor.
    (Personally, I do not find SNL very funny. In my limited time spent watching it, I feel that they have tried way too hard to insult conservatives, esp. Trump, and their humor is forced. When you try too hard to be funny, you have the opposite effect.)
    “There’s no such thing as an appropriate joke; that’s why it’s called a joke.” –Michael Scott

  6. Bob says:

    I personally believe that liberals due tend to be more funny, based solely off of what both sides tend to employ in their humor. In my personal experience(mostly Facebook), conservatives tend to jokes about controversial issues such as rape, sexuality, transphobia, sexism, etc., while liberals tend to be more creative with their jokes and don’t usually make their jokes at the expense of others. On another note, I believe that satire is incredibly important. It helps to humanize people and keep people from being unrealistically idolized.

  7. Elisabeth Seage says:

    How many offensive jokes can one listen to until they get bored or angry? Conservatives seem to rely on only offensive jokes that diminish the livelihood of people and call people “snowflakes” or “sensitive” if they don’t find them funny. Yet a Liberal can make a small, light-hearted joke about Trump or anything, and you have conservatives redder than their MAGA hats. What’s the deal? Honestly, we’ve sort of lost an understanding of what satire even is. Satire is used to be ironic, to expose and criticize ideas in a playful way. Liberals are more funny in my opinion; they actually utilize satirical humor, while Conservatives claim that their jokes are satire when in fact they are just downright offensive. We need outlets like SNL to humanize political candidates, because if not then it seems like we are just putting these political candidates up on a pedestal, almost as if they are “holy”. SNL does its job right, but I have to admit sometimes their humor can be a little dry.

  8. Vincent Chung says:

    The thing about offensive jokes is that they are unexpected, which is the reason they are the funniest. Just don’t get your feelings hurt. Take everything light-heartedly. Satire is meant to throw shade and catch people who don’t the social norm. It’s always funny until your insecurities get targeted, but that should help you grow more as a person. I digress. I’ve never viewed a joke as being liberal or conservative and with my short view time of SNL, the host usually goes hard on topics and cracking at something any chance they get.

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