Political Humor and Its Reverberations

People are divided on whether political humor benefits the public, noting either that comedy helps us to see the truth, or that it makes us cynical. Culture specialist Iain Ellis observes that while politicians fabricate positive self-images, comedy unveils politicians’ flaws, thus encouraging the public to engage in political issues. But Ph.D. student Ramon Lopez points out that political satire, such as Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show, uses the straw man method to simplify politicians’ views. Columnist Stephen Marche furthers that, besides using the straw man approach, satire “delights in tearing down institutions” (Marche 165). Through highlighting politicians’ bad qualities, comedy escalates people’s distrust toward the government. However, while most satire manifests this adverse effect by attacking politicians, some political comedy creatively makes fun of people’s hilarious reaction to politicians’ flaws. This type of humor, identified by philosopher Simon Critchley, “liberates the will and the desire” (Cricthley 126) of audiences, showing them their own mistakes. Through challenging audiences’ perceptions about political satire, such humor, despite calling attention to politicians’ flaws, also encourages the public to reflect on their own behaviors. For instance, Aziz Ansari’s SNL routine counters discrimination by joking about people who are too excited about Trump’s racism, and Samantha Bee’s Full-Frontal ridicules women who march only because they like the knitted hats, inspiring women to reflect on their marching. Even if these routines use straw men to make their points, true political humor not only unmasks politicians’ flaws, but also unveils the public’s flaws, thereby fortifying the public to pursue political change.

Political humor, as its name suggests, delves into civic affairs. It seeks to investigate and reveal the concealed truth of politicians through joking about them. While the realm of politics always entails complicated relationships, American culture specialist Iain Ellis discerns a network among politicians, media, and the public. He recognizes that politicians connive with mainstream media to make themselves appear likeable (Ellis 154). By showcasing their appealing qualities, politicians achieve a comical profile that the public can endorse. On the other hand, Ellis claims that political comedy seeks to discover the hidden flaws behind politicians’ endeavors to craft perfect self-images. As comedy “unmasks, parades, and ridicules those efforts,” (Ellis 154) a different, and often ugly face of politicians is revealed. Through this revelation, political comedy offers the public information that politicians and mainstream media sometimes overlook. “In representing the interests of the common man, in speaking truth to power, these comic vigilantes provide us with an important – and otherwise absent and/or neglected – political service” (Ellis 155). Political humor, targeting politicians, bravely discloses their flaws. By serving audiences with a mix of laughter and truth, political comedy attracts the public, arming them with information to powerfully respond to politicians’ flaws.

However, despite its role in empowering the public with respect to politicians, political satire often uses the straw man method, which weakens and attacks opponents’ points to shape its arguments. Indeed, political humor gives the public fascinating jokes to illustrate politicians’ stupidity, and the straw man method is an inevitable part of its joking. But Ph.D. student of political theory Ramon Lopez notes that “Comedic straw men … degrade the opposition not only by twisting and misrepresenting their arguments, but also by ridiculing them” (Lopez 159). By using the straw man, political humor can oversimplify politicians’ refined ideas. Even one of America’s most popular comedians Jon Stewart possesses this problem. In his Daily Show “Chaos in Bulls**t Mountain,” Stewart argues that Mitt Romney, a 2012 presidential candidate, does not care for the economic realities of poor people. In a segment of his show, Stewart ridicules a tape in which Romney complains the poor’s distrust toward his policies (Stewart 03:17-03:44). However, Stewart only plays a tiny slice of the tape (Stewart 03:45-03:48) showing nothing of Romney’s complete thoughts but his complaint. While Romney’s rant is questionable, he should have reasoning for his complaint, and that arbitrary cut of the tape blocks the audiences’ access to that reasoning. As a result, comedy such as the Daily Show fails to give the public the comprehensive thought system behind politicians’ flaws.

Furthermore, most political satire like Jon Stewart’s leads the public to distrust government by simply denying politicians. Columnist Stephen Marche claims that “Satire was a mirror in which viewers discovered everybody’s face but their own; its pleasure is the pleasure of othering” (Marche 165). Such satire creates narcissism among audiences, and those listeners, while delighted to see the awful sides of others, cannot reflect on themselves. Accompanied with the straw man method, political satire will pose dramatic damage to the public. “Chaos in Bulls**t Mountain” proves this idea further. Besides his unethical representation of Romney’s flaws, Jon Stewart also criticizes entitlement policy for being ineffective. However, this criticism does not encourage the public to contemplate how that policy can be improved. While in Crossfire interview, Stewart claims that he “holds [his idea] to be much more important … as a citizen” (Crossfire 06:56-07:00), he deeply affects the public by the disparaging words he imposes on political acts. Through claiming its absurdity, Stewart drains people’s belief toward government.

While most satire, such as the Daily Show, damages politics by simply deriding politicians, some political comedy benefits the public by also pointing out the public’s mistakes. This comedy, or true comedy, does more than just revealing politicians’ flaws. As philosopher Simon Critchley notes, “a true joke … has to do more than release tension … it has to change the situation” (Critchley 125), true political comedy changes the situation by broadcasting the public’s irrational reactions toward politicians’ flaws. This humor lets the public reexamine themselves, correcting their mistaken behaviors through its pungent comic bits. Aziz Ansari’s SNL stand-up is a prime example of true humor. In this show, Ansari speaks against president Trump’s racism, but he specifically pokes fun at people who only voted for Trump to enable their racism. His contemptuous parody of racists – who seem to feel that “we don’t have to pretend like we’re not racist anymore!” (Ansari 02:40-02:50) – subverts racists’ privilege. Accounted for by Critchley’s incongruity theory, humor, by surprising audiences, can not only change their thoughts, but also their actions. While audiences expect Ansari to explicitly mock Trump, Ansari’s sudden assault on public expectation provokes profound introspection. “The incongruities of humor both speak out of a massive congruence between joke structure and social structure, and speak against those structures by showing that they have no necessity” (Critchley 126). By mocking racists’ flaws, Ansari effectively attacks discrimination, motivating the public to contemplate their reactions to Trump’s presidency. Thus, in eviscerating the public’s inappropriate responses to politicians’ problems, true comedy can hold a mirror up to the public, thereby engaging them to adjust their behaviors.

Taking everything into consideration, true political humor’s ability to change how the public understands themselves circumvents the straw man fallacy. Indeed, Ansari’s SNL show portrays racists as brainless people, ridiculing them without looking for why they developed such racism. But since Ansari encourages the public to reflect on themselves by challenging their views about racism, the straw man here is quite benign. Samantha Bee, in her show Full-Frontal, has a worse straw man problem than Ansari, as she shows multiple shortened clips to support her arguments. Bee points out that Trump is frustrated by the women’s march after his inauguration. Then, as she plays cut version of Kellyanne Conway’s comment on the march, Bee oversimplifies Conway’s discourse. By ridiculing her remark that Trump is “uplifting and unifying” (Bee 02:03-02:09), Bee depicts Trump as “uplifting” a woman’s skirt. While this joke has obvious straw man fallacy, she also deals with white women’s flaws during the march, joking that, “All you have to do to get white women to show up to a protest is to give them a craft” (Bee 01:35-01:40). By poking fun at these women, Bee engages the public in legitimately fighting for their rights rather than treating the march as a trendy event. As a result, though the straw man poses a pitfall for true political comedy such as Full Frontal, it can be neutralized by the humor’s power to inspire public reflection.

The above arguments about political humor apply to American culture, but we may consider whether they can also be addressed throughout the world. Serbia’s “laughtivism” (McGraw & Warner 148) seems to disagree with the point that exclusively deriding politicians harms the public. This movement thoroughly aimed at the long-disliked president, terminating Serbia’s autocracy followed by his resignation. On the other hand, during the Egyptian uprising, Bassem Youssef’s show proves that mocking politicians can be effective in the short term. But he did not promote the public to reflect on themselves, only inciting their distrust toward the president. As people were satisfied with their new leader, the show was shut down. What if Youssef sparked public introspection? This is the question worth thinking about when we try to answer if political comedy benefits the public from other parts of the world by mirroring their behaviors.

Works Cited

“Aziz Ansari Stand-Up Monologue – SNL.” YouTube, uploaded by Saturday Night Live, 22 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whde50AacZs.
“Chaos on Bulls**t Mountain – The Entitlement Society.” Comedy Central, uploaded by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 19 Sept. 2012, http://www.cc.com/video-playlists/vwstqp/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-bullshit-mountain/ymemxt.
Critchley, Simon. “Did You Hear the One About the Philosopher Writing a Book on Humour?” Think, vol. 1, no. 2, Autumn 2002, pp. 103-112, doi.org/10.1017/S147717560000035X. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 122-131.
Ellis, Iain. “Political Humor and Its Diss Contents.” Pop Matters, 14 Oct. 2012, www. popmatters.com/column/163983-political-humor-and-its-diss-contents/P1/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 150-155.
Lopez, Ramon. “Why Jon Stewart is Bad for America.” The Federalist, 5 Dec. 2014, www. thefederalist.com/2014/12/05/why-jon-stewart-is-bad-for-america/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 156-162.
Marche, Stephen. “The Left Has a Post-Truth Problem, Too. It’s Called Comedy.” LA Times, 6 Jan. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-marche-left-fake-news-problem-comedy-20170106-story.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 164-165.
McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner. “Humor Code Entry 6: Can Comedy Bring About Real Political Change?” Slate, 30 Mar. 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2014/the_humor_code/daily_show_colbert_report_can_political_comedy_affect_real_political_change.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 146-148.
“Who March the World? Girls.” YouTube, uploaded by Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, 25 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pEcvteQo9g.

 

Acknowledgement

Most courtesy of AWP program director and my instructor Dr. Karen Gocsik, who gave me wholesome feedback to guide me through revising the drafts, preventing me from pitfalls of making arguments. I appreciate curriculum coordinator Sarah Baker for correcting minor citation errors and affirming the final draft during community office hour. I am grateful for my mentor Sarah Ardell for checking the weakest paragraph in meeting sessions. I also thank my groupmates Oscar and Shuli for enriching me through common reader response and group conference. These peers facilitate me a lot in organizing the argument points.
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How Does Humor Fight Against Stereotypes?

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© Kate Copeland

Humor is able to make people laugh. But when used strategically, it can also eliminate stereotypes. Journalist Mary O’Hara, supported by experts from different fields, notices humor’s immense power to actively counterbalance bigotry (O’Hara 106). She postulates that humor can bring new ideas to society and correct mistaken stereotypes. However, psychologist Gil Greengross disagrees with O’Hara, proposing that whether comedy can eliminate stereotypes depends largely on the context of audiences (Greengross 144). While philosopher Simon Critchley admits that shared context is important, he concurs with O’Hara by applying incongruity theory, which states that humor changes people’s view through surprising them. He uses this theory to explain how humor reverses the audiences’ perception of stereotypes. Finally, while comedian Negin Farsad employs Critchley’s positions to shift people’s views about Muslims, she adds a more interesting interpretation of her pursuit. “What makes comedy so effective is that if you’re making them laugh along the way, they’re going to listen to the deeper cut stuff” (Farsad 13). Denying Greengross, she confirms O’Hara that humor can earn people’s trust, and eventually defeat stereotypes.

As social affairs journalist Mary O’Hara observes, humor can counter malicious stereotypes by conveying new ideas (O’Hara 105). To certify this observation, she offers a collection of comedians and scholars. For example, social activist and comedian Josie Long believes “Satire is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” (O’Hara 106). This belief signifies that through satire, humor can balance the feelings of all the individuals, including those who are labeled with stereotypes. O’Hara investigates further by visiting experienced comedian Stephen K Amos, who claims, “One of the singular properties of certain comedy ‘when done well’ is the freedom to explore ideas in an unconventional or counterintuitive way, to subvert society’s norms” (O’Hara 107). Based on Amos’ discourse, O’Hara asserts that comedy can provide new insights into social ailments – stereotypes – and cures them. She uses Amo’s action to validate John Fugelsang’s claim, “Humor can be a social corrective” (O’Hara 108). This sentence further proves O’Hara’s note that humor can bring different perspectives that help correct the mistaken stereotypes.

Though psychologist Gil Greengross agrees with O’Hara that comedy can bring unique information, he claims that humor does not change all the audiences’ biased views if they perceive these jokes differently. “The same joke can be funny or not, but can also be racist or not racist depending on who tells it and to whom” (Greengross 144). He implies that when people lack shared ideals with the comedians, the subsequent humor may fail to counter stereotypes. Drawing from experimental results, Greengross also concludes that comedy may not provoke audiences to hold against racists, who impose stereotypes on minority groups. “When we consider groups that most people discriminate against, and feel they are justified in doing so, disparaging humor towards that group does not foster discriminatory acts against them” (Greengross 143). He clarifies that humor can only show stereotypes rather than resisting them.

Philosopher Simon Critchley concurs with Greengross that shared context is essential for a joke to effect change. “There has to be a congruence between joke structure and social structure” (Critchley 123). However, he disagrees with the point that jokes do not effectively attack stereotypes. Based on the premise that a common identity is established, Critchley uses incongruity theory to explain how humor alter people’s perception about stereotypes. This theory states that the discrepancy between reality and the audience’s expectation generates laughter. Through making audiences laugh, Critchley asserts, “The incongruities of humor both speak out of a massive congruence between joke structure and social structure, and speak against those structures by showing that they have no necessity” (Critchley 126). He suggests that when a comedian jokes about stereotypes, the audience is informed and expects a joke that mirrors their stereotypical view. He then declares that as the comedian unveils the joke in an unconventional style, people’s expectation is popped, and they will break into laughter. “By laughing at power, we expose its contingency, we realize that what appeared to be fixed and oppressive is in fact the emperor’s new clothes” (Critchley 126). Critchley implies this moment as a shift in people’s view about stereotypes. When comedians lead audiences to this moment, these stereotypes, set up by the powerful, will seem to be ridiculous.

Comedian Negin Farsad’s jokes fit well with Critchley’s incongruity theory. She also refutes Greengross’ conception, demonstrating that joke tellers can accommodate people, dissolve the social barrier, and finally change people’s views toward stereotypes through surprising them. Viewing comedy as “a platform for advancing social justice” (O’Hara 106), Farsad bravely sets off on a grand mission to alleviate a stereotype regarding her own identity: Muslims do not denounce terrorism. To fight against this stereotype, Farsad, in her movie, The Muslims are Coming!, holds a comedy performance in Birmingham. At the beginning, she brings the audiences delicious foods. As people are attracted to the delicacies, Farsad identifies with these audiences, mockingly appreciating their tastes for foods (Farsad 17). When she brings people closer to her, she shifts the topic toward correcting the Muslim stereotype through the “name that religion” game. As she mentions a quotation that involves violence, people will expect it to come from the Quran. However, Farsad reveals that it comes from the Bible (Farsad 18). The audience, out of surprise, breaks into laughter. They come to realize that not all terrible things come from Islam. In this way, Farsad succeeds in reducing audiences’ stereotypes about Muslims.

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While Critchley and Farsad agree that humor can fight against stereotypes, Farsad has a more specific interpretation. “Comedy … makes you laugh. And when you’re laughing, you enter into a state of openness. And in that moment of openness … comedian can stick in a whole bunch of information” (Farsad 14). This explanation well serves as the philosophy for Farsad’s pursuit of justice: As she breaks audiences into laughter, they are more open to listen to the positive messages that Muslims are as good as anyone. Her method for eliminating stereotypes also verifies O’Hara’s quote from Sophie Quirk: “If you’re getting people together and talking about views that in the broader social context are quite marginal, and we’re all laughing together at those, then you’re kind of affirming them” (O’Hara 107). Therefore, Farsad ensures that when she identify with audiences, she can eventually disintegrate stereotypes.

To sum up, a meaningful humor is not just about making people laugh; it should have profound social effect. The conversation about humor’s ability to fight against stereotypes goes favorably. O’Hara, with her stakeholders’ support, concludes that humor can correct mistaken stereotypes by delivering ingenious thoughts. Greengross flips the conversation, noticing that common social identity is necessary for a joke teller to change people’s mind. Critchley mediates the controversy between O’Hara and Greengross, proposing incongruity theory to explain how humor alters people’s views about stereotypes based on shared context. While Farsad tells a joke that supports Critchley’s theory and counters Greengross’ points, she also confirms O’Hara’s belief in comedy’s social functions. Still, though we have understood that humor can fight against stereotypes, we should consider if humor can effect real political change in the same manner.

 

 

Works Cited

Critchley, Simon. “Did You Hear the One About the Philosopher Writing a Book on Humour?”

Think, vol. 1, no. 2, Autumn 2002, pp. 103-112, doi.org/10.1017/S147717560000035X.Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 122-131

Farsad, Negin. “Can Humor Fight Prejudice?” TED Radio Hour from NPR, 24 Mar. 2017,www.npr.org/2017/03/24/520942852/negin-farsad-can-humor-fight-prejudice.

Greengross, Gil. “Does Racist Humor Promote Racism?” Psychology Today, 18 July 2011, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/humor-sapiens/201107/does-racist-humor-promote-racism. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 142-144.

O’Hara, Mary. “A Serious Business: What Can Comedy Do?” Mosaic, 23 Aug. 2016,www.mosaicscience.com/story/comedy-humour-jokes-political-satire-taboo. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,2017, pp. 104-111.

 

Acknowledgement

I greatly acknowledge the AWP program director and my instructor Dr. Karen Gocsik. She gave me comprehensive feedback in revising my first draft and second draft throughout the course, especially facilitating clear representation of the course readings. I am grateful for the curriculum coordinator Sarah Baker, who viewed my third draft, corrected citation errors and advised better synthetic strategy during the community office hour. I appreciate my mentor Sarah Ardell for raising suggestions about grammar and style in meeting sessions. I also thank my groupmates Flory and Shuli for enriching me through common reader response and group conference. The response helps me a lot when polishing the final paper.

Grand humor articles coming ahead

Dear readers,

Humor is everywhere in our life. While it makes us laugh, it also neutralizes our sadness, fear, or anger. But have you ever imagined that a seemingly inconspicuous joke can have a big impact in our community? In the article, A Serious Business: What Can Comedy do?, social affairs journalist Mary O’Hara answers with a simple sentence: “Comedy can change how we think, and even what we act” (O’Hara 104). So, how can humor even change our perception of something? Here in my portfolio, I hope to bring you on a journey where you can envision humor’s immense power by reading the following two papers.

My Summary & Synthesis paper, How Does Humor Fight Against Stereotypes?, will introduce you to a conversation that discusses how humor acts toward the commonly criticized stereotypes. Several writers are engaging in this topic. You have seen Mary O’Hara’s claim, and she will start the talk by pointing out humor’s power to fight against stereotypes. Then, psychologist Gil Greengross will raise objections, saying that humor may fail to counter stereotypes without shared context among comedians and audiences. When the controversy between O’Hara and Greengross grows intense, philosopher Simon Critchley will quench the controversy. While he supports the importance of common identity, he explains O’Hara’s view with his incongruity theory, which states that a joke is funny when it surprises audiences’ expectations, thereby flipping their stereotypical views. As you have heard the three writers talking about comedy’s power to reverse stereotypes, real comedian Negin Farsad will come in and respond to these writers, stating how she erases her Muslim stereotypes through telling jokes.

After demonstrating humor’s ability to upend stereotypes, I will take a stand in the Argument essay, Political Humor and Its Reverberations, exploring how humor, when used in politics, benefits the American public in general. Likely, you have often heard comedians poking fun at politicians. But you may also have noticed that such comedy has a serious logical fallacy – straw man, which oversimplifies and attacks the opponents’ argument points. When the straw man is done inappropriately, it may worsen American politics by damaging the public’s trust toward government. How do comedians avoid the problem? My answer is: by not always deriding politicians. A good political comedy does not simply attack its usual targets; it also targets some citizens. By comedians sometimes inserting such jokes that aim at the public, who should be criticized, the audiences will be aware of themselves, and try not to be the target, either. In doing so, political comedy can bring about profound reflection to the public.

Humor is more fascinating than we think, it can change our ways of thinking and doing things. When done aptly, it can even punch up our spirit. If you seldom touch comedy, you may be urged to watch some comedy shows right after reading my papers. Even so, I hope this journey will bring you some new insights into comedy’s power, and may the empowering humor be with you.

 

Work Cited

O’Hara, Mary. “A Serious Business: What Can Comedy Do?” Mosaic, 23 Aug. 2016,

http://www.mosaicscience.com/story/comedy-humour-jokes-political-satire-taboo. Rpt. in The

Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,

2017, pp. 104-111.

 

Acknowledgements

I am thankful for AWP program director and my instructor Dr. Karen Gocsik for fixing grammatical errors as well as the representation of my two portfolio essays. I appreciate curriculum coordinator Sarah Baker for looking over the overview and advising me to address more about “so what” challenge. I also acknowledge mentor Sarah Ardell, and groupmates Oscar and Shuli for facilitating me to write the overview and give me common reader feedbacks.

Status

Response to Instructor Comments about My Argument Paper

Dear Doctor Karen Gocsik,

Thank you very much for your sounding comments on my 3M. Through the rubric, I see that I am improving on some aspects: I have better grasp of the course readings than before, and despite understanding the basic ideas of these materials, I can also effectively synthesize them into my argument points. Besides, I can raise interesting motivating question. Using this intriguing question to guide my essay, I am confident to offer an interesting claim, thereby engaging my readers in the following body paragraphs.

Of course, my 3M demonstrates some weaknesses that I should work hard on. For instance, the third paragraph’s argument point is so aggressive that it falls short of being convincing. Besides, my use of evidence in that part does not integrate to a wholesome point. The most persistent problem in my writing is, still, the grammar and style. I understand that correcting my English expression requires practices, so I will keep struggling with that. At least, compared to the course readings, my 3M does seem childish.

To revise the essay later, I will fix the grammar and style problem. I will especially focus on emphasis and concision. After the language expression is refined to the greatest extent, I will look at the logic of my argument, and eliminate logical fallacies. I also want to make sure my evidences are really supporting my argument points, as the third paragraph is a weak spot. To ensure good use of evidence, I will go back to the course readings and further comprehend their contributing ideas.

Summary of the conversation again

To what degree does political humor change the society? This question sparks an interesting conversation among the course readings. McGraw and Warner stand for the optimistic side. They refute Christie Davies’ claim that jokes only indicate political discontent and may possibly relieve the rebellion. By exemplifying “laughtivism” in which people overturned their leader through mocking at him,  McGraw and Warner asserts that comedy can bring about positive political change. This change is furthered by Anna Louie Sussman, who presents Egyptian uprising to show humor’s immense ability to improve the situation.  She thinks humor “build community, strengthen solidarity, and provide a safe, thug-free outlet for Egyptians to defy the regime” (Sussman 166). In this sense, Sussman argues that comedy breaks people’s fear, and provide them with different perspectives to view the reality . Bassem Youssef  verifies this argument with his career as a comedian . In his comedy show, he turned down Mubarak and Morsi, both presidents disliked by the public. By making people laugh at their hidden flaws, Youssef engaged people in changing the society. When Sisi became the president, Youssef continued making jokes. But since Sisi had people’s support, Youssef’s show was canceled. Still, as Youssef says, “pulling the show off the air is a victory” (Bager 172), he brings beloved leader to his country, and proves that humor can greatly impact the political world.

However, Iain Ellis observes that, though political humor plays a vital role in politics, people should not be too optimistic. He uses a three-way dance to illustrate how politicians, media, and the public interact. Ellis posits that the dance involves comedians spreading the truth to the audiences, thus engages the public in political issues.  But he claims  that politicians, on the other hand, also use “spin” and “obfuscation” to make up their self-images. Indeed, Ellis agrees with McGraw & Warner that humor is important, yet he thinks that it decides the presidential election is not a good sign.

Ramon Lopez flips the argument, discussing Jon Stewart’s negative effect to the society. Although Lopez acknowledges Stewart’s broad influence, he criticizes Stewart for promoting cynicism and using straw men. “Comedic straw men degrade the opposition not only by twisting and misrepresenting their arguments, but also by ridiculing them” (Lopez 159). He illustrates that Stewart always misrepresents opposing ideas, and completely deny them. This absolute denial, as Lopez construes, will make people become cynical about the government without considering its benefit. Still, Lopez encourages Stewart to rethink his presentation by offering John Oliver who is doing political humor correctly.

Stephen Marche consents with Lopez that political humor affects the society negatively, but he adds more nuances into this idea. Marche says that Americans are living in a post-truth generation in which people believe in emotionally appealing information . While the post-truth has become a widespread ailment, Marche points out that humor “turns the news itself into a joke” (Marche 165), making people trust comedians blindly. Marche furthers the blind trust by asserting that humor makes people pleased with ridiculing at others. He posits that,  through “the pleasure of otherings” (Marche 165) , people can only  break things apart, but never build things up.

 

Works Cited

Bager, Jasmine. “Egypt’s Jon Stewart is Not Done Laughing.” New Republic, 3 Apr. 2017,www.newrepublic.com/article/141572/egypts-jon-stewart-not-done-laughing. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,2017, pp. 170-172.

Lopez, Ramon. “Why Jon Stewart is Bad for America.” The Federalist, 5 Dec. 2014, http://www.thefederalist.com/2014/12/05/why-jon-stewart-is-bad-for-america/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 156-162.

Marche, Stephen. “The Left Has a Post-Truth Problem, Too. It’s Called Comedy.” LA Times, 6 Jan. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-marche-left-fake-news-problem-comedy-20170106-story.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 164-165.

Sussman, Anna Louie. “Laugh, O Revolution: Humor in the Egyptian Uprising.” Atlantic, 23 Feb. 2011, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/laugh-o-revolution-humor-in-the-egyptian-uprising/71530/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 166-169.

Comedy Presentation Plan

Our group will present our support for Dave Chappelle to be invited to the university. We will summarize his comedy first to ensure our classmates know what Chappelle is talking about. Then, by providing three reasons, we will analyze how his jokes work well. Among the three reasons, we will also provide counterarguments of Samantha Bee and Aziz Ansari to explain why the two comedians should not be invited.

Summary: In the stand up, Chappelle first shortly discusses Trump’s election and infer to him as “internet troll”. He mentions the riots in Oregon, which are for protesting Trump’s election. Using the event as a transition, he jokes about black people that watch the riots are saying amateurs. The joke is based on stereotype people have toward blacks that they are violent and are good at creating riots. After introducing the stereotype, he argues against it through jokes about Shooting (at Pulse, a gay night-club, a repressed gay proclaim loyalty to ISIS before he shot) and wu tang clan (Chappelle says that if he has sex with a girl and shout out wu tang does not mean he is in wu tang clan). Through these two jokes, Chappelle demonstrates that even though some of the blacks are violent, not all of them are. After explaining stereotype toward blacks, Chappelle states black lives matters and argues for African American rights. At the end, Chappelle appeals to “give Trump a chance” even though he might not be a good president in protester’s view, for the same reason that white people may not be in favor of blacks have given them equal rights and should treat them equally.

Reason 1: Most of the students are liberal and Dave considers different political opinions. Chapelle first builds common ground between for his white audiences to stand with him. Knowing most of the audiences are protesters of Trump, Chappelle describes Trump as “Internet troll”(1’29’’) in the very beginning of comedy to let audiences know that they are all against Trump. As a university in the California, most of students in the campus are liberal and is against Trump. Chapelle offers the common ground that the students can stand on and engage with the joke.

He also will not offend conservative people (even though they are minority in campus, we do care about their feeling). He claims to “give Trump a chance” at the end of his comedy that shows his support for Trump.

So that is also the reason why we don’t choose Samantha Bee. Because Bee is totally against Trump. Her political opinion and radical attitude towards Trump may offend some conservative students.

Reason 2: Reduce university students’ prejudice toward the black. In the university, sometimes students will also hold stereotype towards black students. Chappelle’s comedy show reduces stereotype they have towards blacks and comfort the black students.

In the comedy show, Chappelle makes a joke to illustrate his claim that not all of the black people are violent and not all of the violence is done by blacks (2:34-3:00).

The joke tells about the shooting event: a gay made a shooting at Pulse. Chappelle makes people laugh at incongruity theory. Based on the common ground people have that ISIS is not gay, Chappelle jokes about ISIS using Grinder, a social networking app for gay, that makes audiences burst out laughing. By pointing out the incongruence, Audiences accept that shooter is not ISIS when they are laughing. Through the joke, Chappelle demonstrates that even though ISIS has done many shootings, not all shootings are done by ISIS, even though some black people are violent, not all violence is done by the black. So, people shouldn’t connect black people with violence together.

Then, Chappelle talks about Obama to claim that black people can also be friendly and respected. All the audience applaud and cheer up when he said Obama has done a good job. (pictures) By reminding the audience of former president Obama as a black, Chappell successfully makes people aware that black people can also become the one everyone admired.

So, the comedy show and the university share the same value in racial equality. When Chappelle’s show is brought to the university, it will be welcomed because his joke reduces the stereotype students have towards the black and will be aware that black people are not that kind of people who only do violence.

Reason 3: Offend people appropriately. Chappelle offends policemen by creating jokes about them. But this offense is appropriate because it only refutes policemen’s discrimination. So, this does not violate university’s principles of community. It also defends black people’s rights, which is embraced by the university.

A commonsense in the world is that people’s life matters more than animals. That’s why policemen shoot a gorilla in a local zoo when it threatens a child. However, Dave Chappelle challenges policemen by saying black people will be in “gorilla costume” to protect themselves (3:56-4:01). This joke implies that police cares more about gorilla than black people.

Then, Dave Chappelle posits that policemen usually shoot innocent black people because they think black people are violent. Though the policemen respond Blue Lives Matter to defend their shooting behavior, Chappelle tells a joke that makes the slogan nonsensical (4:24-4:46).

In this joke, Chappelle uses incongruity theory to argue for Black Lives Matter. He first speaks for the congruence for the two “Life Matters” slogans, then he makes the audience realize that Black and Blue are virtually different: Black is a congenital skin color, but Blue is an external suit. Chappelle shows that if he can take off the skin color, he will not be black, and he is “out of the game”. But that’s impossible. Only policemen can take off their suit to quit being blue. So, Chappelle sensibly offends policemen by deriding their reasoning for shooting black people. He also testifies that police should stop hurt them because they are black.

On the other hand, Aziz Ansari does not address offense aptly. Although both Ansari and Chappelle support equal rights, Ansari exclusively argues against white people, since only they can perform racism. This offense is not appropriate in terms of university standards because he may offend white students.

 

Work Cited

“Dave Chappelle Stand-Up Monologue – SNL.” YouTube, uploaded by Saturday Night Live, 13 Nov. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–IS0XiNdpk&t=227s.

Status

Response to Instructor Comments

Dear Doctor Karen Gocsik,

I am grateful for your comprehensive comments on my 1N paper. You point out strengths that I should keep, and weaknesses I should work on: The motivating question is inspiring, and the citation and body organization fulfill the basic requirements for college writing. However, to make the essay exceptional, I should understand and analyze the readings effectively at the first place. Without the understanding, the essay will fail to demonstrate a sounding conversation. I also need to be aware of the larger conversation, especially in the introduction. By articulating the broader context, the readers will know how this conversation makes sense in a smaller scale. Moreover, I should be careful about English writing conventions. I make some word choice errors even after revision. Hence, to refine the essay’s expression, making it more understandable, the principles of grammars and styles are still worth revisiting.

To revise this summary and synthesis essay later, I plan to go back to the course readings to make sure I can demonstrate what the authors contribute to the conversation. Then, by comprehending these readings to a higher level, I will check the grammar and style principles, and eliminate inapt words. I will try to illustrate the context of conversation so that the essay will makes impact to the readers, even to the society.

Introduction to Analysis of Aziz Ansari’s Anti-Racist Comedy

After president Trump’s inauguration, Trump supporters, most of whom are racists, started to disparage minorities. To defend the minorities, host Aziz Ansari, in an Saturday Night Live show, performs his stand-up comedy. He disagrees with racism using the incongruity theory, which states that humor can change the way people think by breaking tension. The audience grow tense as he talks about the lower case kkk movement, that tends to rationalize racism. But when he makes fun of racists, the audience realize that the movement is ridiculous. Ansari proceeds his argument through broaching people’s fear of Muslims. To alleviate discrimination against them, he applies benign violation, a theory that says, “humor arise when something seems wrong and threatening but is completely safe” (McGraw 133). He reveals how people are horrified by Muslims, and then jokes about these people of their nonsensical fear. Finally, by glorifying former president George Bush’s anti-racist action and consoling the minorities, Ansari scorches racists and urges Trump to upend racism. Although he offends Trump voters, Ansari confesses, at the beginning, that people should respect them by telling a joke that compares Trump to the popular singer Chris Brown. This joke makes Ansari’s humor successful by creating a common ground, which [calms Trump voters down and] makes his argument more understandable [and inoffensive].

 

Central idea Joke & theory applied How this work
Racists should go back to pretending. “Go back to … They’re not usually geography buffs.”

“We’re not leaving.”

 

Incongruity theory

Turn against Trump voters who support racism; further alleviate offense toward audience.

 

Break audience’s tension, change their mind.

 

Afflict the comfortable.

People haven’t interacted with minorities in normal life. Trump should be responsible. Minorities, don’t worry. “Ahh! What are they saying! God is good, normal religious stuff.”

 

Benign violation theory

Comfort the afflicted.

 

Make the unsafe safe, the serious silly.

 

Act as a social corrective.

Deal with the offense: People should respect voters for Trump. “Donald Trump is basically the Chris Brown of politics.”

 

Common ground theory

Good reasoning, persuasive.

 

Make them open to Ansari’s arguments.

 

Reduces offense toward most of the audience.

 

Works Cited

“Aziz Ansari Stand-Up Monologue – SNL.” YouTube, uploaded by Saturday Night Live, 22 Jan.2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whde50AacZs.

McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner. “Entry 1: What, Exactly, Makes Something Funny?” Slate, 23Mar. 2014,www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2014/the_humor_code/what_makes_something_funny_a_bold_new_attempt_at_a_unified_theory_of_comedy.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 132-135

 

Acknowledgement

I am grateful for my instructor Dr. Gocsik for facilitating me to write introduction to analysis effectively. I also appreciate my mentor Sarah for giving suggestions to my focus on the essay. My groupmates Flory and Shuli provide common reader responses and rhetorical analyses to help me revise the introduction sensibly.

Do chemistry students think differently?

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Chemistry is a common discipline among the contemporary students. You really cannot succeed without appreciating the fundamental concepts of chemistry. However, it appears to be one of the top courses people hate. This result confuses chemistry students a lot. We like chemistry very much, we find it practical in life, and we try hard to defend its popularity. The first thing to do is to change how people view about the discipline, and this requires teaching them to know chemistry well. So, a notable question arises: Do students in chemistry major have different mindsets from those who are not?

First thing that pops up is the stereotype. Chemistry is just a natural science, but pretty much a physics and biology, chemistry is viewed as supernatural in the general population. Consequently, students who do explicit work on chemistry will be referred as “genius”, and some of my friends do say this word to me. This word, as it looks shiny, creates an unnecessary cognitive barrier for non-chemistry students. These people will be prone to giving up studying chemistry. Once, a friend who is in economics major asked me about problems in general organic chemistry. She was stumbled upon drawing constitutional isomers for hexane, and put much anger in the problem’s worthlessness. As I helped her figuring out this question, she sighed, “Everybody hates organic chemistry, how could you even learn this delightfully?” My answer is quite short for this serious issue. Chemistry is very conventional, and I like to explore those conventions.

Indeed, chemistry is very attractive for us because it simply reveals laws of matters, but the deeper cut stuff is the many baffling glossaries. You have to remember a lot of words before doing things for chemistry, and it costs time. Not to mention about remembering the names for elements and compounds, but many subcategories, such as atomic theory, stoichiometry, electrochemistry, inorganic, organic, all have their own languages. Chemistry students have sensed the difficulty like everyone else, but they rather view it as a chance to prepare for their movements. Nature renders us various substances, and we need to explore their properties and reactions from understanding certain explanations, and chemistry does these things. Chemistry accounts for the fact that when freon evaporates from liquid state, it absorbs much heat from the surroundings. So, it was used as a coolant. However, as scientists found out freon’s damage for the ozone layers, a new call for a environmentally-friendly coolant comes in. For something to be a coolant, it needs, for example, to absorb heat when evaporate, like what freon does. From learning specific examples, we can make generalization about certain principles, and these general rules get into other examples that can have potential benefits for the society.

Anyhow, chemistry students do have different perspectives for chemistry. In contrast to traeating it as a courseload, chemistry students regard chemistry as a toolkit for them to change something. It is true that chemistry requires a distinct methodology of dealing with problems. That methodology, in turn, affects chemistry students’ mode of seeing the world. This world view, when visualized by their actions, can be sheer bizzard occasionally. But if you scan those stuents’ brains, the signal patterns they reveal, and the biomolecular processes inside every neuron, are quite much the same as other people.

Guest List for my Summary & Synthesis Essay

To speak soundly in the conversation about humor, I should firstly collect enough information from other people so that I can know what the conversation is about. Then, noticing an inspiring topic, I will rearrange the claims from these people and come up with my own idea. From the course conversation so far, I discovered an interesting question: How does humor fight against stereotypes? To formulate my answer to this question, here I invited several guests who have spoken out some arguments.

The first guest that should start is Mary O’Hara. She discusses about humor’s functions presents a lot of comics who believe comedy has social significance, for example, “It’s vital to understand the job comedy can do in actively providing a counterbalance to bigotry and prejudice” (O’Hara 105). Such this sentence sets up the basis for further discussion about humor fighting stereotypes.

The second guest included is Simon Critchley. He addresses humor’s social function in a more theoretical level. He uses the concept “incongruity” to describe comedy as funny because it diverges the story from the audience’s expectation, especially in joking about the powerful groups. He points out “By laughing at power, we expose its contingency, we realize that what appeared to be fixed and oppressive … should be mocked and ridiculed” (Critchley 126). This idea is insightful for comedians to refute stereotypes by implementing humor.

Then comes Zach St. George. He addresses the issue about dominant groups’ stereotypes toward others. He uses women as example to demonstrate why they are considered less funny and how women tell gender jokes by using “charged humor”. “This humor carries a message, meant to change perceptions by knowingly pushing the boundaries of one or more dominant groups” (St. George 139). Though groups such as women have to task risks with humor when they try to lessen stereotypes, the humor itself is still effective to change the situation.

Russell Peters has something to say with small stereotypes: accents. The discrimination in accents is evident in Canadians toward Indians, who speak very “funny”. He disputes this stereotype by simply speaking in an Canadian accent about silly matters. And as the audience break into laughter, he succeeds in eliminating the stereotypical views against Indian accents.

Finally, I want to invite Negin Farsad for she is a comedian experienced about fighting common stereotypes of Muslims. She insists comedy is useful because it sets up recognition between the audience and herself. By breaking the boundaries through laughter, the audience are compelled to listen to her ideas. “Comedy opens people up, and what makes comedy so effective is that if you’re making them laugh along the way, they’re going to listen to the deeper cut stuff” (Farsad 13). She uses humor to empathize with people and convey her friendly messages to them. As a result, the stereotype about Muslims is gone.

 

Works Cited

“‘Accents.’” YouTube, uploaded by Russell Peters, 1 Nov. 2016,www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4KhEj0ai5E.

Critchley, Simon. “Did You Hear the One About the Philosopher Writing a Book on Humour?”Think, vol. 1, no. 2, Autumn 2002, pp. 103-112, doi.org/10.1017/S147717560000035X.Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 122-131.

Farsad, Negin. “Can Humor Fight Prejudice?” TED Radio Hour from NPR, 24 Mar. 2017,www.npr.org/2017/03/24/520942852/negin-farsad-can-humor-fight-prejudice.

O’Hara, Mary. “A Serious Business: What Can Comedy Do?” Mosaic, 23 Aug. 2016,www.mosaicscience.com/story/comedy-humour-jokes-political-satire-taboo. Rpt. in TheEssential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,2017, pp. 104-111.St. George, Zach. “Identity is an Inside Joke.” Nautilus, 26 Nov. 2015,www.nautil.us/issue/30/identity/identity-is-an-inside-joke. Rpt. in The Essential Guide toAnalytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 136-141.


Acknowledgement

I am grateful for my instructor Dr. Gocsik for facilitating me to understand reading materials and come up with better ideas with guest lists. I appreciate my mentor Sarah for giving suggestions for grammar and style. I also thank my groupmates Flory and Shuli for discussing ideas during presentation.