Does satire actually work?

Google image search results: Jabba the Trump

The classic example of political satire is Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” in which the Irish author, writing ironically, suggests that the poor families of Ireland might ease their burden and contribute to society by selling their children as food for English aristocrats. This was in 1729, after which England immediately began treating the Irish well. Either that, or right-thinking people agreed Swift was a genius and went on treating poor people like dirt for the next three centuries. I mention this gap between reception and effect on the occasion of this hilarious McSweeney’s piece by Jeff Loveness, titled This is the Political Satire That Finally Stops Trump. A taste:

I tweet my “Jabba the Trump” meme for the world to see. The knife of satire twists deep. In a moment, I am flooded by dozens of retweets, ranging from friends who share my political opinions to strangers on the internet who also share my political opinions—the chorus of America itself. My tweet lights the spark, and the fires of rebellion burn bright.

You think it’s going to be one-note, and it kind of is, but the crescendo is so strong that we don’t miss the melody. It also makes an uncomfortable point: Now that Trump has ascended to power through sheer absence of shame, what can mockery and ridicule accomplish?

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This sketch from Sesame Street demonstrates a theory of comedy

What’s in the box? Not a cookie

Friend of the blog and devoted father Peter Franke drew my attention to this Sesame Street sketch, in which Kermit has a mystery box. If anyone can guess what’s in the box, they can have it. “Is it cookie?” Cookie Monster asks, appearing from beneath the frame. “Bye-bye,” he says upon learning it is not. In addition to adding tension by giving Kermit something to want from him—i.e. cooperation in the Mystery Box game—Cookie Monster’s rapid entrance-exit cleanly establishes the premise of the sketch. He wants cookies. That’s all he wants, and he wants them very much. The first half of this sketch demonstrates the theory that comedy happens when a character acts like himself to the point of absurdity. Behold:

Close analysis of puppet show for children after the jump.

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Look at Sarah Aswell’s website

Author Sarah Aswell (artist’s conception)

Do you know my friend Sarah Aswell? In addition to being an ace content strategist and commercial copywriter, she is very funny. Her work has appeared in outlets from McSweeney’s to Reductress to the Gettysburg Review. It used to be that when you wanted to read some Aswell, you had to either come to our writing group or go search all over the internet. Thanks to her new website, though, you can read all sorts of Aswelliana right here. My personal favorite is How to Snap a Sexy Selfie Without Stopping to Eat Sheet Cake With Your Hands. I also enjoy her McSweeney’s piece about Your First CSA. But perhaps you would prefer the Handy-esque Maybe We Should Just Wait and See, which is that combination of funny and sad I love so much. Sarah is working in a niche brand of humor that is actually funny, instead of just combining cultural signifiers to produce awkward non sequiturs. Her success in this field suggests that prose humor may not fall to brain-dead sarcasm after all. Check it out!


Is this the funniest Holocaust joke?

Norm Macdonald, the master, ages.

Norm Macdonald, the master, in middle age

Whenever someone declares a superlative—the best joke, the worst president, the most boneheaded play of the game—you should ask what the second-most was. Superlatives are dumb. The question of the second-funniest Holocaust joke calls attention to the problems of the genre. The Holocaust was many things, but inherently funny it wasn’t. It was inherently shocking, and most Holocaust jokes focus on audacity—either the audacity in the mere act of telling them or some put-on insensitivity to their subject. That’s cheating. Anyone can find shock humor in history’s worst genocide, but it takes a deft hand to make a Holocaust joke genuinely funny. Enter Norm Macdonald:

That’s the funniest Holocaust joke I’ve ever heard. Dissection after the jump.

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Clinton kills in Reno with joke about fact-checking dog

Thank you, sweet Frinkiac

Thank you, sweet Frinkiac.

I got pretty excited when I read the headline Clinton Barks Like a Dog to Taunt GOP. That’s the kind of behavior Democrats need to close the absurdity gap with the Republican candidates, who currently hold a massive lead in generating funny stories for The Hill. But it turns out Hillary was not barking to drown out the sound of Ted Cruz or assert her resemblance to Smokey from Friday. She was just telling a story about one of her favorite political advertisements, which featured a fact-checking dog:

One of my favorite political ads of all time was a radio ad in rural Arkansas where the announcer says, “Wouldn’t it be great if somebody running for office said something [and] we could have an immediate reaction to whether it was true or not. Well, we have trained this dog…if it is not true, he is going to bark.” And the dog was barking on the radio so people were barking at each other for days after that. I want to figure out how we can do that to Republicans. We need to get that dog and follow them around and every time they say these things like, “Oh, the Great Recession was caused by too much regulation,” arh, arh, arh, arh.

How can I trust The Hill when they believe a dog says “arh?” Dogs clearly say “woof” or, in Canada, “arf.” But I’m more interested in the pop this story got from the audience at the end, since it was in no way funny. Video after the jump.

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