Sign up for free to use this document yourself.
  • I Think…

  • Working Claim: Some believe that political comedy is purely for entertainment. They see the colorful jokes and laughter as just for fun. However political jokes often do not simply have just entertainment value. On the contrary, political comedy can be educational in some cases. For the truth is, those who are less politically aware – either self-identified or answer fewer political questions correctly (administered by various researchers) – gain a bit more from these shows than a couple of laughs. In this essay then, looking at various surveys and studies regarding certain political comedy shows will demonstrate that some people, can learn about politics, form political opinions, and be inspired to participate in politics, all from watching a comedy show. These shows make politics more enjoyable to learn about, giving an incentive to learn more about the subject through other sources. Thus, political comedy shows do not act as a primary source for knowledge, as opponents might object to, but as “information subsidizers,” condensing important information and intriguing its audience, especially the less-politically aware, into learning more. By making politics more enjoyable and easy to understand for the less-politically aware, those people are more likely to have more, stronger opinions and participate in politics. While it would be illogical to ask late-night comedians to change their acts to better educate their audiences – many of them simply want to make the news entertaining and see teaching as a side effect – it should be made widely known that these shows can lead to an increase in political knowledge, and the less-politically aware should be encouraged to watch these shows. The comedians would surely not object to a larger audience.

  • Background/Terms
    Low political awareness: either self-identified or answer fewer political questions correctly (administered by various researchers)
    Political efficacy: “the belief in one’s own competency and the feeling that political and social change is possible” (Campbell, Gurin, and Miller, as cited by Hoffman and Young)

  • Because of These Reasons

  • Reason 1: Political comedy audiences are ranked highly in political knowledge compared to other news sources

  • Reason 2: Political comedy makes political information more enjoyable and easier to understand for those who are less interested in politics

  • Reason 3: Political comedy show audiences are more likely than other audiences to seek out other news sources, leading to higher political knowledge

  • Reason 4: A higher political knowledge level results in a higher likeliness to participate in politics or have higher political efficacy. So because political shows have a significant effect on political knowledge, it has an effect on political participation/efficacy

  • Reason 5: Late-night hosts often talk about specific issues that audiences might not normally pay attention to

  • Reason 6: It has already been proven that late-night comedy shows have an effect on those less interested in politics.

  • Reason 7: Political comedy is shown to be at least as good as other news sources in political knowledge, opinion, and participation

    • Based on This Evidence

    • For both TDS and Colbert (individually), 22% of their audience got the four political questions correct and 26% got three. That is larger than multiple other news sources, including Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN (“Americans”).

    • Viewers of Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight reported more familiarity on net neutrality with the issue than non-viewers (Brewer et al.)

    • The Daily Show and Colbert Report tied with major newspaper websites for the highest percentage of audience members with a high knowledge level with 54% (“Public”).

    • A poll from Farleigh Dickinson University testing domestic and international questions found that viewers of The Daily Show got the second and third most correctly, respectively. NPR listeners got the most right in both (“What You Know”).

    • Political comedy and other types of soft news make it easier for audiences to comprehend complicated political issues (like net neutrality) (Becker and Bode).

    • John Oliver acts as an “information subsidizer,” compressing political information into easily comprehendible segments, which can also transform the viewers’ opinions (Brewer et al.).

    • When a comedian actually makes a joke about an issue as opposed to explaining it, cognitive effort is often required to “get it,” resulting in a higher probability of retaining the information (Hoffman and Young).

    • “Political comedy is believed to be able to “piggyback” high-cost information onto low-cost content that is relatively more appealing to marginally attentive viewers, and can in this way serve as their “gateway” to becoming more informed about the political world” (Baum, as cited by Xenos and Becker).

    • Instead of being a news supplier, political comedy acts more like a “news enhancer,” especially for those who are less interested in politics (Xenos and Becker)

    • People who watched late-night shows to laugh were more likely to report learning from them as well, suggesting that the respondents perceived that laughing and learning happen at the same time (Young).

    • “[A] respondent stated, ‘Mainly [shows like TDS/CR] take the information I read daily in the newspaper or in the news and make them easier to remember being able to recall things in quick and witty ways makes them more entertaining.’” (Young)

    • People who regularly learn from late-night shows are much more likely to say they also regularly learn from a multitude of other news sources, both primary and secondary (“Internet’s”)

    • There is a proven direct relationship between getting news from multiple sources and higher political knowledge (“Public”)

    • People with self-reported lower levels of political interest who were shown a clip of Jon Stewart were almost three times more likely to research information on the issue than those who were shown a news clip, and more than six times more likely to do so than those shown no clip (Xenos and Becker).

    • When both watch a comedy stimulus, the difference of knowledge between those with high and low political interest is significantly lowered compared with a straight news stimulus (Xenos and Becker).

    • Compared to those in the control group, participants who described themselves as less interested in politics who watched the comedy clip spent more time further researching the issue, regardless of which political issue it was. This is labeled “the gateway hypothesis,” meaning that watching political comedy is a gateway to gathering information from other news sources (Xenos and Becker)

    • 90% of those deemed to have a “high knowledge level” say they are registered to vote compared to the 53% of those deemed to have a “low knowledge level” (“Public”).

    • The more direction a late-night show host gives, the more likely their audience is to follow through (Bode and Becker).

    • The public is more likely to engage in “easy political behaviors” (signing a petition, commenting on a website) rather than “hard” ones (contacting a senator) at a comedian’s request, but participating in an “easy” political can lead to participating in a “hard” political behavior (Bode and Becker).

    • Satire and parody shows such as The Daily Show have a direct positive effect on political efficacy, and therefore an indirect positive effect on political participation (Hoffman and Young).

    • Multiple researchers focus their studies on John Oliver’s episode on net neutrality, a very niche issue, and find positive results. Becker and Bode found that, at least in issue-specific segments like this one, comedians do have a significant effect on knowledge.

    • When “new political satire” shows delve into niche topics like net neutrality, they are at least as good as news for learning about these complicated issues (Becker and Bode).

    • Oliver’s segment on net neutrality was found to have the most significant sway in political opinion compared to other (non-comedic) news segments on net neutrality (Brewer et al.)

    • By focusing on an issue that might not be known by those who are less politically aware, they automatically are able to help the audience make an opinion on the matter (Brewer et al.).

    • Political opinions are initially formed from a combination of genetics and one’s environment. In a media perspective, genes influence which media choices are attractive while the environment dictates which of those media choices exist (Beattie). If these work together to choose a political comedy show, and no opinion is already formed on the issue being discussed (as is often the case for the less-politically aware), late-night hosts are by default the ones with the most initial sway of opinion on the issue.

    • At least with specific issues, Oliver’s “new political satire” is at least as good of a knowledge source as the news (Becker and Bode).

    • While comparing a LWT segment on net neutrality with a Fox News one on the segment, Oliver’s segment not only was more informative that Fox News’s, but it also influenced the opinions of its audience members more than the latter (Brewer et al.).

    • When both watch a comedy stimulus, the difference of knowledge between those with high and low political interest is significantly lowered compared with a straight news stimulus (Xenos and Becker)

    • When “new political satire” shows delve into niche topics like net neutrality, they are at least as good as news for learning about these complicated issues (Becker and Bode).

    • Watching political satire has a very similar effect to traditional TV news on political efficacy and likeliness to participate in politics (Hoffman and Young).

    {"cards":[{"_id":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20292350,"position":1,"parentId":null,"content":"**I Think...**"},{"_id":"4e8ffca04fb57122a600000c","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20292394,"position":1,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Because of These Reasons**"},{"_id":"4e8fecd44fb57122a6000012","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20292470,"position":1,"parentId":"4e8ffca04fb57122a600000c","content":"**Based on This Evidence**"},{"_id":"4e8ffba54fb57122a600000d","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298171,"position":2,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 1:** Political comedy audiences are ranked highly in political knowledge compared to other news sources"},{"_id":"4e8feaba4fb57122a6000014","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20317114,"position":2,"parentId":"4e8ffba54fb57122a600000d","content":"For both TDS and Colbert (individually), 22% of their audience got the four political questions correct and 26% got three. That is larger than multiple other news sources, including Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN (\"Americans\")."},{"_id":"4e8f5de24fb57122a6000016","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298883,"position":4,"parentId":"4e8ffba54fb57122a600000d","content":"Viewers of Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight reported more familiarity on net neutrality with the issue than non-viewers (Brewer et al.)"},{"_id":"4e8f5c714fb57122a6000017","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20293133,"position":5,"parentId":"4e8ffba54fb57122a600000d","content":"The Daily Show and Colbert Report tied with major newspaper websites for the highest percentage of audience members with a high knowledge level with 54% (\"Public\")."},{"_id":"4e8f5c074fb57122a6000018","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20293136,"position":6,"parentId":"4e8ffba54fb57122a600000d","content":"A poll from Farleigh Dickinson University testing domestic and international questions found that viewers of The Daily Show got the second and third most correctly, respectively. NPR listeners got the most right in both (“What You Know”)."},{"_id":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20317139,"position":3,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 2:** Political comedy makes political information more enjoyable and easier to understand for those who are less interested in politics"},{"_id":"4e88fae74fb57122a6000045","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20317151,"position":0.5625,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"Political comedy and other types of soft news make it easier for audiences to comprehend complicated political issues (like net neutrality) (Becker and Bode)."},{"_id":"4e88a8a94fb57122a600004a","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20317159,"position":0.59375,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"John Oliver acts as an \"information subsidizer,\" compressing political information into easily comprehendible segments, which can also transform the viewers' opinions (Brewer et al.)."},{"_id":"4e8aa2614fb57122a600003e","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298857,"position":0.625,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"When a comedian actually makes a joke about an issue as opposed to explaining it, cognitive effort is often required to \"get it,\" resulting in a higher probability of retaining the information (Hoffman and Young). "},{"_id":"4e88c7854fb57122a6000046","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299037,"position":0.6875,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"\"Political comedy is believed to be able to “piggyback” high-cost information onto low-cost content that is relatively more appealing to marginally attentive viewers, and can in this way serve as their “gateway” to becoming more informed about the political world\" (Baum, as cited by Xenos and Becker)."},{"_id":"4e88c3b84fb57122a6000047","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299046,"position":0.71875,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"Instead of being a news supplier, political comedy acts more like a \"news enhancer,\" *especially* for those who are less interested in politics (Xenos and Becker)"},{"_id":"4e8aa9dd4fb57122a600003d","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298145,"position":0.75,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"People who watched late-night shows to laugh were more likely to report learning from them as well, suggesting that the respondents perceived that laughing and learning happen at the same time (Young). "},{"_id":"4e8b50674fb57122a6000039","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298963,"position":1,"parentId":"4e8ff9a04fb57122a600000e","content":"\"[A] respondent stated, 'Mainly [shows like *TDS*/*CR*] take the information I read daily in the newspaper or in the news and make them easier to remember being able to recall things in quick and witty ways makes them more entertaining.'\" (Young)"},{"_id":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20317141,"position":3.75,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 3:** Political comedy show audiences are more likely than other audiences to seek out other news sources, leading to higher political knowledge"},{"_id":"4e8e17e04fb57122a600001a","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20296155,"position":2,"parentId":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","content":"People who regularly learn from late-night shows are much more likely to say they also regularly learn from a multitude of other news sources, both primary and secondary (\"Internet's\")"},{"_id":"4e8d6dfc4fb57122a600001b","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20296192,"position":3,"parentId":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","content":"There is a proven direct relationship between getting news from multiple sources and higher political knowledge (\"Public\")"},{"_id":"4e8d68b74fb57122a600001c","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20297038,"position":4,"parentId":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","content":"People with self-reported lower levels of political interest who were shown a clip of Jon Stewart were almost three times more likely to research information on the issue than those who were shown a news clip, and more than six times more likely to do so than those shown no clip (Xenos and Becker)."},{"_id":"4e8c81534fb57122a600001e","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20297830,"position":6,"parentId":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","content":"When both watch a comedy stimulus, the difference of knowledge between those with high and low political interest is significantly lowered compared with a straight news stimulus (Xenos and Becker)."},{"_id":"4e88b7454fb57122a6000048","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299058,"position":7,"parentId":"4e8ff30d4fb57122a600000f","content":"Compared to those in the control group, participants who described themselves as less interested in politics who watched the comedy clip spent more time further researching the issue, regardless of which political issue it was. This is labeled \"the gateway hypothesis,\" meaning that watching political comedy is a gateway to gathering information from other news sources (Xenos and Becker)"},{"_id":"4e8ff1604fb57122a6000010","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299088,"position":4,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 4:** A higher political knowledge level results in a higher likeliness to participate in politics or have higher political efficacy. So because political shows have a significant effect on political knowledge, it has an effect on political participation/efficacy"},{"_id":"4e8879404fb57122a600004b","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299148,"position":1,"parentId":"4e8ff1604fb57122a6000010","content":"90% of those deemed to have a “high knowledge level” say they are registered to vote compared to the 53% of those deemed to have a “low knowledge level” (\"Public\")."},{"_id":"4e885f444fb57122a600004c","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299149,"position":2,"parentId":"4e8ff1604fb57122a6000010","content":"The more direction a late-night show host gives, the more likely their audience is to follow through (Bode and Becker)."},{"_id":"4e885d874fb57122a600004d","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299157,"position":3,"parentId":"4e8ff1604fb57122a6000010","content":"The public is more likely to engage in “easy political behaviors” (signing a petition, commenting on a website) rather than “hard” ones (contacting a senator) at a comedian’s request, but participating in an \"easy\" political can lead to participating in a \"hard\" political behavior (Bode and Becker). "},{"_id":"4e8857754fb57122a600004e","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299158,"position":4,"parentId":"4e8ff1604fb57122a6000010","content":"Satire and parody shows such as The Daily Show have a direct positive effect on political efficacy, and therefore an indirect positive effect on political participation (Hoffman and Young)."},{"_id":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298159,"position":5,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 5:** Late-night hosts often talk about specific issues that audiences might not normally pay attention to"},{"_id":"4e8853df4fb57122a6000050","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299161,"position":2,"parentId":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","content":"Multiple researchers focus their studies on John Oliver's episode on net neutrality, a very niche issue, and find positive results. Becker and Bode found that, at least in issue-specific segments like this one, comedians do have a significant effect on knowledge."},{"_id":"4e883dda4fb57122a6000054","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299179,"position":2.25,"parentId":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","content":"When \"new political satire\" shows delve into niche topics like net neutrality, they are at least as good as news for learning about these complicated issues (Becker and Bode)."},{"_id":"4e8840274fb57122a6000053","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299177,"position":2.5,"parentId":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","content":"Oliver's segment on net neutrality was found to have the most significant sway in political opinion compared to other (non-comedic) news segments on net neutrality (Brewer et al.)"},{"_id":"4e884f654fb57122a6000051","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299164,"position":3,"parentId":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","content":"By focusing on an issue that might not be known by those who are less politically aware, they automatically are able to help the audience make an opinion on the matter (Brewer et al.)."},{"_id":"4e884b714fb57122a6000052","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299174,"position":4,"parentId":"4e8ff0d34fb57122a6000011","content":"Political opinions are initially formed from a combination of genetics and one's environment. In a media perspective, genes influence which media choices are attractive while the environment dictates which of those media choices exist (Beattie). If these work together to choose a political comedy show, and no opinion is already formed on the issue being discussed (as is often the case for the less-politically aware), late-night hosts are by default the ones with the most initial sway of opinion on the issue."},{"_id":"4e8a9d214fb57122a600003f","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298822,"position":6,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 6:** It has already been proven that late-night comedy shows have an effect on those less interested in politics."},{"_id":"4e8a825e4fb57122a6000040","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299183,"position":0.5,"parentId":"4e8a9d214fb57122a600003f","content":"At least with specific issues, Oliver's \"new political satire\" is at least as good of a knowledge source as the news (Becker and Bode)."},{"_id":"4e89e6a44fb57122a6000041","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298362,"position":0.75,"parentId":"4e8a9d214fb57122a600003f","content":"While comparing a *LWT* segment on net neutrality with a Fox News one on the segment, Oliver's segment not only was more informative that Fox News's, but it also influenced the opinions of its audience members more than the latter (Brewer et al.)."},{"_id":"5e8baa90afc5370451473445","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298162,"position":1,"parentId":"4e8a9d214fb57122a600003f","content":"When both watch a comedy stimulus, the difference of knowledge between those with high and low political interest is significantly lowered compared with a straight news stimulus (Xenos and Becker)"},{"_id":"4e89110f4fb57122a6000042","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298869,"position":7,"parentId":"4e900f52b48508c036000012","content":"**Reason 7:** Political comedy is shown to be at least as good as other news sources in political knowledge, opinion, and participation"},{"_id":"4e890df84fb57122a6000043","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20299178,"position":1,"parentId":"4e89110f4fb57122a6000042","content":"When \"new political satire\" shows delve into niche topics like net neutrality, they are at least as good as news for learning about these complicated issues (Becker and Bode)."},{"_id":"4e890dbe4fb57122a6000044","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20298880,"position":2,"parentId":"4e89110f4fb57122a6000042","content":"Watching political satire has a very similar effect to traditional TV news on political efficacy and likeliness to participate in politics (Hoffman and Young)."},{"_id":"4e900f12b48508c036000013","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20316821,"position":2,"parentId":null,"content":"**Working Claim:** Some believe that political comedy is purely for entertainment. They see the colorful jokes and laughter as just for fun. However political jokes often do not simply have just entertainment value. On the contrary, political comedy can be educational in some cases. For the truth is, those who are less politically aware – either self-identified or answer fewer political questions correctly (administered by various researchers) – gain a bit more from these shows than a couple of laughs. In this essay then, looking at various surveys and studies regarding certain political comedy shows will demonstrate that some people, can learn about politics, form political opinions, and be inspired to participate in politics, all from watching a comedy show. These shows make politics more enjoyable to learn about, giving an incentive to learn more about the subject through other sources. Thus, political comedy shows do not act as a primary source for knowledge, as opponents might object to, but as “information subsidizers,” condensing important information and intriguing its audience, especially the less-politically aware, into learning more. By making politics more enjoyable and easy to understand for the less-politically aware, those people are more likely to have more, stronger opinions and participate in politics. While it would be illogical to ask late-night comedians to change their acts to better educate their audiences – many of them simply want to make the news entertaining and see teaching as a side effect – it should be made widely known that these shows can lead to an increase in political knowledge, and the less-politically aware should be encouraged to watch these shows. The comedians would surely not object to a larger audience."},{"_id":"4e900d89b48508c036000014","treeId":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","seq":20292234,"position":3,"parentId":null,"content":"**Background/Terms**\nLow political awareness: either self-identified or answer fewer political questions correctly (administered by various researchers)\nPolitical efficacy: \"the belief in one’s own competency and the feeling that political and social change is possible\" (Campbell, Gurin, and Miller, as cited by Hoffman and Young)"}],"tree":{"_id":"4e900fceb48508c036000010","name":"Charlie's Thesis Tree","publicUrl":"charlie-s-thesis-tree"}}