Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April Fool

Satire is very difficult to pull off. First, the audience has to be familiar enough with the subject to know that the satirist is exaggerating to cultivate ridicule and not praise for a particular point of view. Second, it helps if the audience already knows the satirist's own POV well, so that there is no mistaking his message. Third, the piece can't be too vicious or obscure, else anger and other emotions overwhelm the laughter that the writer intended.

When comedian Stephen Colbert performed a crude "Ching Chong Ding Dong" skit to get the audience to analogize Asian racial stereotyping to the use of "Redskins" for the Washington football team, he came under fire not only from his usual enemies on the right but from some of the anti-racist Progressive left.

Though his real politics are the opposite of mine, there's a part of me that empathizes. I once wrote an article for the high-school newspaper that was an obvious satire to me but not to many of the readers. (It didn't help that I was the editor and the first line of defense.) As a consequence there were meetings, controls put in place, and the usual barn-door closings.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

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