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ISSUE 118 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/18/2005

Satirical media replaces reality

By Jonathan Graef
Opinion Editor


Friday, March 18, 2005

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or … what’s this? Pardon me? You what? Oh … so you have been living under a rock. I’m so sorry … I didn’t mean to be so insensitive. I … uh … boy ... this is awkward. [Insert sheepish look here].

Let’s try this again. For as long as the news as been reported, someone has always been there to cut through it using the sharp shears of satire. Whether in humorous magazines such as National Lampoon, The Onion or even St. Olaf’s own The Pickle, a satirical take on the nation’s current events can be found anywhere. Furthermore, if one were to look at a typical lounge in the average residence hall, he or she may find a small gathering of people enthusiastically waiting for Jon Stewart to report the “news” on “The Daily Show.”

That’s where I frequently find myself time and time again. Sitting in the third-floor Ytterboe lounge, where I hope to get a sardonic dose of satire, as well as actual, legitimate information regarding current events.

It would seem that I am not alone in this regard. According to Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 21 percent of 18 to 29 year- olds cited both “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” as their main source for news regarding the 2004 presidential campaign.

While it may seem utterly absurd that most college-aged people get their news from a show that lampoons it, it is certainly a prevalent trend at St. Olaf.

“I actually get more news from “The Daily Show” [than I do watching other networks]. I feel like other news shows are overtly dramatic and exploitive, so its funny to watch them [the segments on the show] spoof that,” Vanessa Wheeler ’05 said.

If one had tuned in to “The Daily Show” any time during the past week, they would have seen plenty of evidence to back up Wheeler’s opinion. Segments on the media’s recent obsession with both the Michael Jackson child molestation trial, as well as Martha Stewart’s recent return from prison, show that as long as there are high-profile media events such as these, “The Daily Show” will have plenty to satirize.

So, you’ve moved out of your rock, and now have an Internet connection? Perhaps you have some mode of transportation? And you have a fondness for humor that occupies both low- and high-brow pop culture? Then you, my logistics-defying, under-rock-living friend, are in luck. The Onion, in both its print form and online incarnation, has put people in stitches for nearly a decade (an early print issue of the paper can be seen in the HBO sketch comedy show “Mr. Show”).

The Onion parodies national news events, the ridiculousness of mainstream pop media, newspaper columnists, horoscopes and much more. The Onion also has an arts-and-entertainment section called “A.V. Club” (Audio-Visual Club) that features movie and music reviews, a sex column and, perhaps my favorite, “Commentary Tracks of the Damned,” a summary of DVD directors’ commentary for really, really bad movies.

Whether you want to laugh at the news, or find an irreverent, witty take on the latest movie release, you could do a whole lot worse than The Onion.

While “The Daily Show” and, to an extent, The Onion, may represent high-brow satire to a tee there are certainly other websites or programs which can satisfy our collective desire for a cheap laugh. For those connoisseurs of carnal humor, look no further than collegehumor.com, or somethingawful.com. Perpetually focused on pandering to our lowest instincts (and you know you want them pandered to), both websites offer the most excellent in low-brow humor.

For music fans, the somethingawful.com column “Your Band Sucks” may be of interest; with articles such as “Coldplay Sucks” and “The Worst Rock Stars Ever,” there is bound to be something to make you laugh and piss you off all in the same stroke.

Of course, not all satire has to be news-oriented in order to be funny, nor does it even require a stroke of genius. The Pickle’s side headline “Life or Death Prank Ends Poorly,” as well as their editorial on the sage-like acting of Mark Hamill, come to mind as examples. Other satirical devices include putting an ironic twist on old clichés, such as The Onion’s recent editorial entitled “Take This Job and Shove It, Following the Customary Two-Week Notification Period.”

None of these satirical outlets would be possible without the mother of all modern satire publications, National Lampoon. While they may be known now for putting out movies which fail miserably to recapture the glory of movies they put out 25 years ago (1978’s “Animal House” for example), during the 1970s the magazine parodied both the pop-culture and politics of the times.

It seems we learned a lot about satire today my friend. Although, I still haven’t figured out how you pulled off that whole “living-under-a-rock” thing. But one thing is for certain: If you are looking for a particularly skewed, satirical view of the world, you can find plenty of sources to accommodate your desire.





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