Sunday, October 26, 2014
The Comedy Of Politics
One thing I will be thankful for in several weeks will be the end of the election campaigns. Politics have lost civility and, in my opinion, the view that civil service is a high calling for the good of our country/culture/society/future. Here is a look at politics from a humorous point of view, from January 24, 2006.
Life imitates art. Or, is it art imitates life? Society has come to the point that jokes and hoaxes take on lives of their own. Television became a great force in politics during the 1960's and 1970's. We like to watch things that entertain us and make us laugh. Politics neatly fit into those categories. I remember The Smothers Brothers Show on Sunday nights when I was a boy. The folk singing siblings were always getting in trouble with the network over their social commentary, some of which I picked up on and some which escaped me. One of their regulars was comedian Pat Paulsen. The definition of droll, Paulsen mounted a satirical bid for the White House in 1968, using the CBS variety show as a vehicle. His mock campaign garnered a number of write-in votes in the election won by Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey. More artistically, Paulsen was awarded an Emmy that same year for his Smothers Brothers performances.
Politics remain a staple of American television comedy. Late-night hosts like David Letterman and Jay Leno feast on the latest scandals of the parties and elected officials. You have to stay up very late to catch Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Following Letterman on NBC Monday through Friday, O'Brien has carved out his own niche of night owl loyalists. His humor is in much the same vein as the man who precedes him each night. In recent months, O'Brien has become a political mover-and-shaker in an unorthodox manner. In October, O'Brien started an on-going gag, emphasizing a supposed resemblance between himself and a candidate up for re-election in Finland's presidential race. The Finn, Tarja Halonen is female and twenty years the senior of O'Brien, but they both have red hair. O'Brien even began running pseudo campaign ads promoting his endorsement of Halonen. Late Night is wildly popular in this tiny country of 5.2 million citizens and it has brought attention to his opposite gender twin's campaign. Hits on Halonen's campaign website have quintupled, due in large measure with the tie-in with the American comedian. Halonen's political team has taken to running legitimate campaign ads right before O'Brien's show airs on Finnish television. Halonen is not adverse to the links with the comic. She is thrilled with comparisons to someone twenty years younger, in spite of their chromosome differences. All in Finland are not amused. There are rumblings that this could sway the vote. Harri Jaskari, who manages the campaign of Halonen's opponent, accuses O'Brien of making a mockery of the process. "If this decides the election, then we're in trouble. It gives a very poor picture of Finnish democracy."
I am no political commentator- I renounced analyzing government and politics when I gave up my social science classes to concentrate on teaching Bible. However, I do think Mr. Jaskari is incorrect in his view of democracy. Every democracy is based on free willed citizens freely making up their mind on candidates they choose to support. We may think the particular stand of one party is silly or immoral but we have the right to work for changes in representation. I can understand why the gentleman might be upset that the impetus is from an outsider like O'Brien but people are enjoying the race. Didn't we used to do that in this country? Wasn't there civility in politics on our fair shores in some distant past? I appreciate that Ms. Halonen can laugh at herself. In our system, those in the public eye view everything as life and death. I say HOORAY for the Finns who can poke a little bit of fun at themselves. We could afford a small dose of their late night medicine.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least."
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Posted by Steve Hawley at 8:53 PM