Laughter is a great healer; it makes us forget miserable situations, fill us with endorphins, decreases our stress and make us feel better. Laughter is good and we like people that make us laugh. Comedians are like ugly rock-stars bringing their version of satire to everyday situations. Some people enjoy situational comedy, with a little bit of slapstick, others like jokes, others enjoy parodies on familiar situations. Hard to find a person across the planet that does not enjoy a form of comedy. In recent years entertainment opened more venues for comedy, programmes on television and shows on the theatres becoming quite popular among so many of us.
In comedy, political satire plays an important part to control authority and question the power held by those in government. People like to laugh at people in power, as a mechanism of distancing themselves from the control, they are under. The corrosive property of power is so potent that even the wisest leaders in power are likely to lose control or become more authoritarian. Against that, satire offers some much needed relief on cases of everyday political aggression. To some people, politics have become so toxic that they can only follow the every day events through the lens of a comedian to make it bearable.
People lose their work, homes and even their right to stay in a country on political decisions made about them. Against these situations, comedy has been an antidote to the immense pain they face. Some politicians are becoming aware of the power comedy has and employ it, whilst others embrace the parody they receive. It was well known that a US president that accepted parody well was Ronald Reagan. On the other end, Boris Johnson embraced comedy, joining the panel of comedy programmes, as he was building his political profile. Tony Blair and David Cameron participated in comedy programmes for charity “taking the piss” out of themselves. These actions endear the leaders to the public who accept the self-deprecating attitude as an acknowledgment of their fallibility.
The ability to humanise leaders is not new, but mass media, including social media, make it more possible now. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is something that, like smoking, should come with some health warnings. The politicians are human, but their politics can sometimes be unfair, unjust or outright inhuman. A person in power can make the decision to send people to war and ultimately lead numerous people to death. A politician can take the “sensible option” to cut funding to public spending directed at people who may suffer consequently. A leader can decide on people’s future and their impact will be long lasting. The most important consequence of power is the devastation that it can cause as the unanticipated consequence of actions. A leader makes the decision to move people back into agriculture and moves millions to farms. The consequence; famine. A leader makes the decision not to accept the results of an election; a militia emerges to defend that leader. The political system is trying to defend itself, but the unexpected consequences will emerge in the future.
What is to do then? To laugh at those in power is important, because it controls the volume of power, but to simply laugh at politicians as if they were comedians, is wrong. They are not equivalent and most importantly we can “take the piss” at their demeanour, mannerisms or political ideology, but we need to observe and take their actions seriously. A bad comedian can simply ruin your night, a bad politician can ruin your life.