I was hoping students would consider humor through one of the three theoretical lenses for analyzing the mass media that we discussed this semester (transmission, ritual, critical).
Undisclosed student: “Humor can be so powerful now. Look at the speech with Steven Colbert. He was at the White House, and trashing the news media and the president, in front of him. But he was using humor. People respond well to humor. Most young people get their news from the Daily Show and others with a comical stance. We are getting this information and they are using the humor to show which side they are on (media). Humor is strange in that it doesn’t always work to your advantage. How serious can you take a comedian? Often the content is not taken seriously and can be brushed off without making a change.”
Steph: “We have a label for the way things aren’t taken so seriously … anyone? 🙂 And say more about its relationship to humor (for more points) or some other functions of comedy in mass media.”
Jen (edited): “perfect segway to…HOWARD STERN [Note: new comments by Kayti and steph]…humor, info…humor and info…humor info and obscenities…all in a days work. [Undisclosed] says that “Often the content is not taken seriously and can be brushed off without making a change.” In regards to a comedian and the news…I don’t agree or disagree, but I do want to ask…is anyone familiar with the huge threat that Howard posed upon Bush and his election as our current president? His millions of audience listeners LISTENED to him, agreed with him, took him seriously…I don’t know stats or facts, just what I remember from when it was all going on at the time and what I heard Howard talking about on his show, but Bush had considered him a legitimate threat to his election to office based on how much HS despised the FCC head guy (Powell is it?) and his relation to Bush…Howard talked so much trash on Bush, his audience whether they started listening to him not liking Bush, or came in the end to not like Bush, HS talked that election up quite a bit…
If anyone else cares to clarify or add to this I’d be happy, bc I know I don’t know facts, just the jist, and I thought it related to what [undisclosed] said when s/he wondered if people took comedians delivering news seriously…not that I think HS is a comedian either but he does his show with humor, similiar to the John Stewart show…if he can be counted as news or a comedian or both I dont know…”
Kirk: “I would think that people not taking comedic media outlets seriously would in part demonstrate limited effects and selective retention.
I would argue that humor does in fact have a pretty significant impact on the masses, be it positive or negative. The Danish Muslim Cartoon controversy shows the manner in which something that is intended to be funny can be blown up into an international issue. There is a lot of negative reaction to humor that employs racism to deliver its message, and people take that very seriously.”
Steph: “Yes, it is a fine line between representations intended to invoke humor (from familiarity, tolerance, acceptance) and those understood as perpetuating prejudice, misunderstanding, racism. The example of the Muslim cartoons by Danish cartoonists is a good one, Kirk, although what is really fascinating about them is that in and of themselves they were “just” cartoons. Is how they were deliberately used as part of a propaganda (!) campaign that catapulted them to the level of international controversy.
The term I was looking for is narcotyzing dysfunction. With any form of humor, is the laughter enough? Does the physical (and I mean deeply biological, biochemical, neurochemical) effect of laughing resolve “the issue” for us such that we choose not to engage it in the real world, because we someone feel (inside ourselves) that we already have?”
Steph: Jen, you raise some interesting points:
Is Howard Stern a newsman (journalist? reporter? commentator?) or a comedian, or both? What mass media concept describes this phenomenon – when the boundaries between previously clear roles or genres are blurred?
I, myself, was not aware of Stern bashing Bush. It makes me wonder about the timing of the FCC’s big fine that forced his move to Sirius. We haven’t discussed socioeconomic class as an identity much in this course, one reason is that it is tricky to do it without using representations that are easily perverted to essentializations. I just wonder (off the top of my head, without knowing the demographics) if the move to private, for pay satellite radio reduces the audience of people who are conservative enough or otherwise ideologically supportive of Bush and his ilk? So Stern becomes less of a political threat, and at the same time, promotes the neoliberal goals of increasing privatization. I’m still interested that in our discussion of Stern’s move no one seems really bothered by the fact you have to pay to hear him. To me, this is evidence of the depth of the ideology of capitalism. We are canalized!
Chris (in the previous weeks’ discussion thread): “found better links [for the Steven Colbert video] at:
I have only watched a portion of the 25 minute video; however, it seems to me that the role of humor in this application allows the comic (Stephen Colbert) to get away with truths that he surely never would be allowed to say seriously from the podium in front of Bush. Humor allows people to laugh at issues that could or would normally upset them. Sensitive issues can be brought to light through humor, as people are usually more relaxed when humor is introduced. Rather than being “lectured” by the speaker, the audience is more interactive and entertained when the speaker uses humor. By George and Laura Bush’s reactions to to the speech, I think that Stephen Colbert may have gone too far and broken some cardinal rules of humorous speeches (“don’t overdo it,” and “don’t be vicious”).”