Comedy has always been something near and dear to my heart. From my obsession with Abbott and Costello in elementary school, to my constant binge-watching of Netflix stand-up now, comedians have always been people I’ve looked up to. However, not everyone is as passionate about comedy as I am and especially in this day and age, it’s getting harder to be a comedian.
Our country is so polarized both in our politics and our values that it’s difficult to get people with similar ideologies to agree on the most basic of things. Comedy, however, is a medium that can bring people together, and get us to laugh at ourselves, when we truly couldn’t be further apart.
Not only does comedy bring us together, but it also informs us. Take Saturday Night Live for example. While events portrayed in sketches are nowhere close to accurate, SNL gets the American public interested in politics and paying attention. Nearly every cold open before the 2016 election was political related, and to understand the jokes you had to know about what was happening in politics. Back during the presidential debates, I remember people watching both the debate and the SNL spoof to compare the two. While these motivations aren’t exactly the right ones, it gets people involved in politics and willing to take part in the political conversation and that’s ultimately what we want. We need more passionate, informed voters that know the issues and aren’t simply voting along party lines.
Comedy can boil down the issues in a way that makes sense to the general public and can make them enjoy learning. A Pew Research poll found that viewers of comedy news shows, such as The Daily Show, exhibited higher retention of news facts than those who got their news from newspapers or network stations. I’ve been recently watching comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act on Netflix. The show combines aspects of a stand-up comedy routine with a TED Talk, and one can actually enjoy themselves while learning about something fairly dense and confusing, like the recent news with Jamal Khashoggi and the affirmative action case against Harvard. Minhaj’s humor is helping me learn more about the world than any news station could. His humor is captivating and makes me want to pay attention. As a result, I learn more.
Overall, comedy has the power to changes hearts and minds. It allows us to come together and be a part of something greater than ourselves. Comedy is a necessity in today’s political climate because it can educate us in ways that other things can’t. It can help us step back and just enjoy the present rather than stressing about the future.