Now, you may be thinking, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert perfected comedy news a while back, no?
But Maddow marks a watershed for a different sort of news comedy.
Political caricatures have been an American staple since the Colonial period.
In the late nineteenth century, these sorts of illustrations tended to be scathing social critiques.
They show up on Saturday Night Live to rap, or to meet their comedy doubles.
They import self-parody into their own campaigns, as in Hillary Clinton’s faux Sopranos video on You Tube.“The funnier side of the political spectrum is the one where your enemies are most ridiculous,” says Wolff.Maybe, but I think it has more to do with a shift in how people like information conveyed. So many felt degraded by the Bush era that they wished to degrade him back, on television.Also, the proliferation of niche audiences spurs sophisticated and partisan humor because these smaller groups of viewers have very particular tastes, identities, and affinities.They are thus more likely to share a sense of what’s funny.Critical verbal humor is a very specific thing—one reason that American film comedies struggle for viewers overseas.Sarcastic ripostes call for sarcastic viewers who know how, and when, to laugh. Finally, we have a far more sophisticated audience today than in the past, one that sees more clearly behind the manipulations and stagecraft of its political leaders.Maddow asks the “awkward question,” as she puts it: Is Blago not well?She riffs a bit and then concludes, with a sarcastic smile, “Illinois, you are getting almost as fun to cover as Alaska!In the twentieth century, though, news parodies were a bit more milquetoast.This was true even thirty-three years ago, when Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” kicked off the modern form of news parody.