Political satire has long been a standard method of political and social commentary. Jonathan Swift's essay "A Modest Proposal" is a prime example of how satire is a powerful vehicle for raising awareness about critical social and political issues, but doing so in a relatively nonthreatening and accessible way. In the United States, political cartoons have long been the bastion of political satire. Howeve, r as Wallachy puts it, "American satire has changed a great deal since Benjamin Franklin's 'Join or Die' cartoon," (1). Technology is one reason why political satire in America has changed its approach. Both Jesse Watters and Samantha Bee have traditional television shows on the one hand, but both also benefit from new media both to find fodder for their discussions but also to propagate their ideas. However, there are critical differences between these two political humor shows. The most glaring difference is that Bee offers a more classic and biting sort of satire, what Wallachy would call "satire evolved towards advocacy" (1). Becker and Bode call Samantha Bee's show Full Frontal part of the "new political satire" in which "information-rich, longer format programs" have replaced shorter segments. Because "Watters World" is a small segment format that avoids information richness, it cannot be considered "new political satire." Bee uses ambush style interviews on occasion, but the ambush street interview is Watter's primary schtick, limiting the scope and effectiveness of "Watters World." However, both Full Frontal and "Watters World" reveal the importance of political comedy as an adjunct to straightforward media reporting.
Both Samantha Bee and Jesse Watters blend comedy and politics, using comedy as a vehicle for social commentary. However, Samantha Bee's show offers far more in depth social and political commentary and touches upon deeper issues related to race, class, gender, power, and intersectionality. Bee is critical of Trump, but uses logic even more than emotion to substantiate her claims. Furthermore, Bee's recent Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner episode proves her overarching commitment to veracity in reporting, in spite of her role in comedy news. In the opening monologue to the Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Bee congratulates the media for remaining strong in spite of the President's numerous and direct attempts to shut down the free press by disallowing specific members of the media at White House press conferences. Bee lauds the media for "continuing to fact check the president as if one day he might actually be embarrassed," which is also one of the core purposes of Full Frontal: fact checking. Becker and Bode highlights extensive research showing that "comedy viewers are more likely than news...
Full Frontal seems to encourage further investigation of the issues more than a show like "Watters World" that mainly dances around the actual issues by focusing more clearly on what ordinary Americans think or believe about the issues. Watters makes fun of Americans; Bee makes fun of the people in power.
Both Samantha Bee and Jesse Watters use humor to lighten what could actually be considered major and serious issues, with Bee focusing far more on deeper discussions and analysis than Watters. Watters avoids deep discussions, partly because the Fox News contingency he panders to does tend to shun intellectualism on principle. Both Bee and Watters showcase the role of comedy as a "stress reducer" that "helps create feelings of solidarity and morale among the oppressed," (Batalion 34). Even the perceived oppression of Trump voters finds voice and solidarity in the likes of Watters and O'Reilly. Comedy shows like Full Frontal and "Watters World" "enable criticism, cohesion, coping -- and hope," that comes from bonding with like-minded people (Batalion 34). Karpt criticizes the creation of echo chambers in new media; Johnson likewise calls out Facebook and other social media venues for using algorithms in a way that helps to perpetuate fake news. Even if the like-minded bonding creates the cognitive echo chambers that lead to Trump victories, the emotional importance of comedy cannot be underestimated. Some of Watters's interview subjects, even the conservative ones, understand the potential dangers in fake news and recognize the difference between fake news and comedy news satire the likes of Bee and Watters.
Samantha Bee's Full Frontal is more complex than "Watters World" because it encourages critical thought to a deeper degree. As Ward points out, "satire is the most complicated form of comedy; it requires an audience to understand the satire and to know enough context to appreciate the message," (1). In one episode of "Watters World," the host actually makes fun of his own audience's lack of education and critical thought, as when he states, "If people were educated, I'd be out of a job." Therefore, Watters to a degree shows that there may be "multiple layers of meaning" and even the potential for critical thought in "Watters World," (Ward 1).
The age of alternative facts is a frightful threat to American democracy, which is why Bee's show has value, whereas the Watters show does not. Bee's views can be construed as biased and yet she offers factual evidence in ways that Watters cannot. Jesse Watters relies on the familiar trope of interviewing ordinary people on the street with the goal of making them look stupid. The method of selective interviewing is deeply flaws, and when Watters does it, barely funny. The people he finds on the streets of New York are not shockingly dumb in any appreciable way, not at all like some of the panelists Bee interviews who affirm that three million voters in California were illegal and that Trump actually won the popular vote. The technique of street interviews can be funny when used well, but Watters fails utterly. Furthermore, Bee dives right into intersectionality -- issues linking race, class, gender, structural inequality, and power…
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