John Henry Henson
17 April 2018
Humorists have been impacting societies since the beginning of civilization. Now, not all humorists are what we typically think of (a.k.a. T.V. hosts and stand-up comedians), many are satirical writers, political cartoonists and columnists. In a world where every subject seems to be deemed “touchy” or “sensitive” , the humorist is able to offer their own opinion, often with little discretion. In his 2004 book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton argues just that; humorists goals are not just to entertain, but to push agenda and issues that would have consequences if addressed otherwise. Although I agree with Botton’s logic, there are also reasons to why the humorist might not be “vital” to society.
Humorists are able to educate the people and push sensitive agenda by masking their message with humor, as seen through T.V shows and political cartoonists. Shows like “S.N.L” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” are perfect examples of humorists avoiding consequences while discussing/showing touchy issues. On “S.N.L”, they create skits that relate to and sometimes mock political agenda and figures such as Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Many see “Saturday Night Live!”as just a source of entertainment, but they are actually serving as an easy way to keep up with political and current world issues. With less and less people watching News stations, shows like “S.N.L” are perfect to stay informed. Just like “S.N.L”, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” is a show featuring Jimmy Kimmel and guests he brings on the show. Mr. Kimmel often makes questionable remarks about figures like Donald Trump, the president, without being questioned about it himself. Mr. Kimmel is able to say certain things that many people may be thinking, that they cannot say because of the consequences of saying it. T.V. shows like S.N.L and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” serve as voices to the people of many touchy topics, while providing them with important political information. Along with many different T.V. programs, political cartoonists are yet another prominent group who use humor to represent current events, without being penalized for their controversial views. These cartoonists often distort images of people and recount sensitive issues to get a laugh from viewers. One prominent political cartoonist, A.F. Branco, has been creating humorous cartoons for years, and has become very popular in the United States. His rapid-growth is a testament to the fact that humorous satire and pictures are truly more effective than words. Humorists come in many forms, all being beneficial in providing society with a voice and information on current events without ridicule.
Although there are numerous humorists that can share their controversial positions without repercussions, there are different groups that are able to be just as successful in sharing their ideas in an entertaining way. Despite humorists the least likely to experience consequence, their are many other groups, such as activists, editorial columnists, and extremists/criminals who, like humorists, advocate their opinions to the general public. Many activists create campaigns and protests, such as the #MeToo and #NeverAgain movements, which are able to raise tremendous public awareness to their ideas. Editorial columnists can create convincing articles on certain agenda, with the ability to post them anywhere and also gain massive support for their issues. Although on the more extreme side, their have been cases of criminals using different things such as the burning of important objects, like the American Flag, rioting, and the use of graffiti to bring attention to their problems. Contrary to Botton’s logic, humorists are not necessarily “vital” as there are many substitutes, like the ones listed above, that raise awareness to controversial topics.
Written almost fifteen years ago Alain de Botton argued that the humorist is completely necessary to our society because it can “convey with impunity messages that might be dangerous or impossible to state directly.” In today’s world, however, I cannot see the humorist being completely “vital” to the people. To start off humorists often distort information, taking biases to one side or another, which can most commonly be seen in T.V. skits/shows and political cartoons. On top of that, there are many alternatives to the humorist such as editorial columnists, activists, and extremists. Even though humorists do not have to fear consequence for their controversial ideas, the fact that they are often biased and their are other way to promote current events does not qualify them to be “vital” to society. Despite this, the humorist and it’s strong ability to display sensitive information will continue to benefit society for generations.
John Henry Henson