Political humor has long been implicated in both the juridical settings of government and its policymaking and the everyday lived possibilities constrained by social institutions and expectations. This is perhaps especially true today. In contemporary societies around the world, political humor abounds in a great diversity of media. Politicians and parties use humor to advance their interests and agendas. Individuals and social movements use humor to express their needs and causes.
For our purposes, ‘political humor’ involves substantial political action conducted through amusing means, rather than the use of political subjects for amusement. It is political communication that partakes in humor, proffering cognitive and affective pleasures typically resulting in laughter in order to better inform and solicit sympathetic political participation in a particular ideological or distributional agenda in lieu of the agenda of rivals. As such, the rich and growing scholarship on political humor tends to diverge along two lines: the conservative ways in which humor relies upon and redoubles existing shared expectations at the expense of errant targets, or the radical ways in which it can achieve cognitive shifts and thereby liberate human energies.
Assessing the social functions and practical impact of political humor is complicated by the ways in which it turns on the nature of the political status quo including especially the distribution of authority and membership. In a democratic polity, ‘conservative’ humor (together with apolitical merely entertaining humor) literally … READ MORE