Laughter as a mechanism for dissecting Politics
With one week of holidays left to go and generally being the asocial person I am, I found myself with a lot of time at hand. There has always been an interest to participate in conversations about politics, but I’ve felt that I didn’t know enough to contribute anything useful to such discussions. Not saying that I’ve suddenly accumulated immense knowledge about the same but I’ve tried a little bit and here’s what I, as a privileged, upper caste Hindu female, who has a better hold over English than my mother tongue Malayalam, have to say about it.
Let me start by saying that I seem to have amassed more knowledge about American politics than Kerala’s or Indian politics. I do feel bad about it but I tried to figure why this data collection has been in such a manner. Political Satire was the answer I came to. Segments of shows like A Closer Look - Late Night with Seth Meyers, monologues of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, rants of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and many more do what many news channels fail to do - show it like it is. News channels with the need for 24/7 content many times seem inaccessible to someone who doesn’t watch news 24/7. The vocabulary they use along with the simple fact that at most times it’s just anchors trying to be diplomatic (in western media’s case) or shouting (in India’s case) at a multitude of guests who they bring on their shows means that no one calls out their bullshit/nonsense.
Which is what political satire shows like these excel at. They are ruthless at times but fearless in calling out the stupidity of politics and politicians that news channels sometimes are unable to do, or gets drowned out by the voices of the 8 tiny frames around the anchor. They don’t throw around jargon, they use the language of the common people and by pointing out the absurdity, make people laugh. They do social analysis in a manner that people can understand rather than in either an academic manner or the altogether Bollywood manner that some news channels adopt. Except for a few videos by AIB and the series of EIC Outrage videos, I couldn’t find any mainstream broadcasts on television, a medium far more accessible than YouTube.
This leads to people giving up on news networks for sincere, brief portrayals of reality and either go to written pieces by trustworthy (?) sources or just get info from Facebook of all places or give up on politics altogether. This brings about mostly a dichotomy amongst youngsters - people who are extremely invested and participants of political parties or people who just don’t care at all. Lack of information propagates wrong information, which is not something that helps run a peaceful society.
Laughter is an important tool for peaceful cooperative existence in society. It sometimes helps us understand how absurd some things are and realise that every ideology and party like every human being has its faults. Laughter brings people together. Political satire hence becomes a very important medium to raise sensitive yet important issues and also remind us that as a country, we are still on the same side most of the times, though people seem to be hell-bent on making us think we are not.