Whether it’s a video from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight delving into why the obscenely racist act of whitewashing is still a thing or Jon Stewart recounting events in Congress through impersonations of Senator Mitch Mcconnell as an aging turtle, we all have watched a segment of a political satire show at one point in our lives. Considering that we live in a turbulent world regarding politics, it can be difficult to make sense of the general chaos that inhabits the current political landscape. For me, and many other young people political satire shows like the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight offers an engaging and humorous way to keep up to date with current events in a way that traditional news outlets like BBC and CNN can’t. In fact, according to a 2007 Pew Research Poll regarding what journalists the American public admires, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show tied with legitimate news anchors like Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper. All in all, it is clear that great value is placed on political satire shows, but what is the role of political satire shows in the lives of people who live outside of the United States?
What is the role of political satire shows in the lives of people who live outside of the United States?
Having moved from the United States at the age of 10, after being raised in the suburbs of Arizona for the entirety of my then decade-long life, my childhood is primarily constructed of a collection of fragments shaped by the turbulence of American society and politics. I still remember the first time I became aware of the American government during the 2008 presidential race of John Mccain and Barack Obama at the tender age of eight. Getting to experience such a monumental pinnacle in both American and world history in general as an American living in America provided a foundation for my continuing interest in the status of American politics and society.
While moving around has obviously provided me with insights and experiences that I would have never would have undergone if I still lived in the suburbs of Arizona, I feel as if there is a barrier between myself and American society, even though I do try my best to keep with current events. As faith would have it, in the summer before 8th grade, I stumbled upon a show called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and instantly fell in love. It was exactly what was lacking in my life as an expat – a personalized connection with American politics and society. The more conversational tone of reporting that John Oliver provided made me feel as if I was engaging in a discussion about the United States- rather than blindly absorbing the flashy headlines and monotone reporting of traditional news outlets. Even if it was a staunchly British man informing me about the latest breaking news in the United States, I felt a more personalized collection to the United States- a feeling I had not felt in a very long time.
Curious about what other individuals who do not currently live in the US think regarding this topic, I sat down with Yash Telakar, an avid watcher of political satire shows, who despite not being American has a keen interest in American politics and current events. Similar to myself, he states the reason he watches these shows is because of the “humorous and engaging manner” which is “rarely emulated” by other news outlets. However, Yash hits another point that I happened to overlook—the fact that they “highlight topics that would little be addressed” in our current “polarized political climate”. Curious, I asked Yash to elaborate on the importance of these political satire shows on his own life as someone who is not American and he cited these shows as the main cause for reinforcing his perception of how chaotic the American political landscape currently is. While Yash does emphasize how little political satire shows realistically influence American politics, he also reiterates how political satire does serve as a means of keeping up to date with current events. Nonetheless, in order to maintain balanced thinking, he also mentions that we should not solely rely on one source i.e. political satire, for the news Reading a variety of news outlets is important in order to avoid bias and see issues as they are holistically presented.
Yash watches these shows because of the “humorous and engaging manner” which is “rarely emulated” by other news outlets.
All in all, political satire shows are a valuable means of keeping up to date with American politics, especially with someone like myself who craves an entertaining yet informed connection with America and Yash, a non-American individual that is immensely interested in American politics. Nonetheless, as Yash mentioned previously, in order to fully be informed of topical political topics, simply looking at political satire shows is not enough—be sure to consider a plethora of different sources and perspectives.