When it comes to politics, I considered myself to be one of those ignorant millenials who didn’t really know too much about what was going on. Growing up, I was somehow convinced that my vote didn’t matter and that if I didn’t know enough about each candidate, then why should I vote? And as opposed to educating myself, like I try to do now, I just sat back and told myself what I had heard my whole life: they’re all crooks. None of them will deliver on their promises. What’s the point in voting if office will burn to the ground regardless of who gets chosen?
Now, when it came to understanding candidates, I had no idea what was going on. I had been out of the game too long and I overwhelmed myself with all the knowledge I thought I needed to get caught up. I quickly became discouraged through the countless articles, press conferences, and opinions that were being hurled my way.
Enter late night television. Again, this is something else I missed out on because I’m a 90-year-old woman at heart who passes out before 10:00 p.m. on weekdays. So I never wound up catching anything. I was constantly (and still am) met with the age-old question from those who actually stay up long enough to see the moon: “Did you catch John Oliver last night?” If not him, then what about Colbert? Surely I must have watched someone. But the answer was always a slightly ashamed “no”.
Before Trudeau was voted into office, I wasn’t as caught up as I wanted to be with the slates and which side of the fence I fell on. Then my brother posted a link to John Oliver’s video on the Canadian election. After 15 minutes, I felt that I had a basic gist of the candidates on top of the knowledge I had already gained through newspapers and the news. Fifteen minutes was all it took to sum up what pages of material were trying to say. And with a little added humour into the mix, I retained more information from John Oliver than I did from anyone else leading up to his video.
My point is, bouncing off one of our articles this week, “Check your source: comedians broadcast”, I think these political comedies have a great, important place in our culture today. Quoting the 2013 study “What about those interviews? The Impact of Exposure to Political Comedy and Cable News on Factual Recall and Anticipated Political Expression”, I am absolutely one of those people who remembers political information from one of these late night shows. I mean, I would understand it coming from the news, but John Oliver whipping out 5,000 Canadian dollars and Mike Myers dressed as a Mountie as encouragement for people to vote against Stephen Harper is something that sticks out in my memory way more.
The coverage of the American election is something I’ve been keeping a close eye on as well. And while I don’t get all my information from late night talk show hosts, I do get a hefty amount of important info from them. Do I enjoy hearing about Trump’s failures from John Oliver? Absolutely I do. Did I send out a tweet with the hashtag #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain? You bet I did. And I did it because I learned something vital about a candidate while also being given a healthy dose of comedy to make things more appealing to me. The comedy makes things more appealing to a lot of people, I think.
That being said, these shows are capable of covering heavier topics as well. Last year, when the Charleston church shooting took place, Jon Stewart opened his monologue with the fact that he wrote no jokes because of what happened in South Carolina. He went on to call the crime an act of terrorism before closing with, “The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina and the roads are named for Confederate generals—and the white guy’s the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him.” When I see these hosts take a moment from their regular comedic skits to talk about something seriously, it packs even more of a punch. It’s not like they’re shying away from topics outside the spectrum of politics. But when they do, they’re perfectly capable of talking about them in a professional manner outside of humour, which is something I can appreciate from them.
Now, I’m not saying that news has no benefits. That’s insane to me. Proper news coverage from journalists who are dedicated in their field and care about the work will always be valuable to a lot of people. We shouldn’t cancel the six o’clock news to air Colbert. But, when it comes to certain things, I would much rather listen to the late night guys over anyone else.