Students who watch political entertainment often seek more information
By Julian De Ocampo ’13
As the presidential political race heats up, students are not only flocking to mainstream news outlets, but to political entertainment as well.
Aside from the traditional forms of satire – political cartoons, late night talk shows – the influence of Comedy Central, a channel largely focused on young adult humor, has grown rapidly over the past decade thanks in part to the wonder duo of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, two mock pundits who are the voice of politics itself for many young adults.
Two years ago in a stunning display of power, the two comedians attracted crowds of thousands to Washington D.C. for a mock rally meant to parody the political grandstanding of conservative pundit Glenn Beck.
But what sort of impact is their humor making on the way Brophy students perceive politics?
According to AP Government and Economics teacher Ms. Kelly Guffey, the impact is at least partially positive because it incites interest in politics.
“The good thing about these shows is that you have to understand what’s going on with the government in order to understand their jokes,” Ms. Guffey said. “Students who watch these shows regularly are more likely to go find more ‘legitimate’ news sources elsewhere to find out if it’s true.”
Ms. Guffey’s claim is supported by a 2007 study by the Pew Research Center, which found that viewers of satirical political comedy shows like “The Colbert Report” were some of the most politically knowledgeable citizens polled.
Ms. Guffey also said that while these shows are “decent places to start getting political news,” they are similar to political cartoons and should not be regarded as legitimate news sources.
As for what constitutes a legitimate source, Ms. Guffey said she prefers newspapers and radio stories because “the most important stories for people to know about don’t come with explosions. Television news has been dumbed down to cater to Americans who spend most of their time surfing the Internet looking at funny cat videos.”
Jim Welty ’14, a self-proclaimed avid fan of Colbert and Stewart, is an example of Ms. Guffey’s idea that students who tune in for the humor often seek out political information. He also follows the political season on CNN and NBC.
And while Welty said he believes “entertainment has a large influence over how we perceive the world and build value,” he also noted that Colbert and Stewart should not be the basis for political opinions.
“Unbiased truth,” Welty said, should inform these opinions.
Philip Rapa ’14 said the appeal of political entertainment is based in its ability to communicate political issues in a relatable manner.
“Brophy students are affected by politically minded television because it is so relatable, so personable. That makes it believable,” Rapa said.
Rapa is an occasional viewer of Colbert and Stewart, and he noted that while they make “some good points,” they are “drowned in comedy.”
And, of course, Colbert and Stewart themselves have maintained that the comedy comes first for them, as it does for many of their viewers.
“When political elections draw near, I definitely look for them more to see the other candidate made fun of so I can feel better about mine,” Rapa said.