What's funny? Should war be parodied?
It was just a matter of hours, once the tanks started rolling across the Kuwaiti border, before the late-night wise guys began lampooning Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The green goggled reality of war from the armchair lends itself to parody: CNN is rumored to have hired John Madden to telestrate the desert battles: "See, here's where the Republican Guard has to plug the line. Bam. Bam. Bam. Wait a minute, Hussein punts on first down. He is a madman!"
Jokes about embedded hacks and US resolve to create “its own UN” are easy… almost as easy as riding the French.
The question is, does poking fun have an impact where declarations, demonstrations, and diplomacy efforts fail?
This is the serious question put to political comedians Will Durst and Lewis Black when they take the podium as part of this year’s Center for Politics National Symposium series.
While one can expect a number of irreverent responses to that question from the participants, the Center keeps a straight face, maintaining that “by promoting this discussion, the history of political humor– particularly in times of crisis–will demonstrate the continued, changing function of the medium in both the present and future of American politics.”
What that really means is that the forum, hosted by Hardball with Chris Matthews producer, Howard Mortman, will be a discussion of the political comedian’s craft, not a dueling stand-ups event.
Durst is a big man in the annals of political comedy. His daily internet column and frequent contributions to the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle don’t even begin to tap the wellsprings of his outraged satirical sensibilities. An obvious “get” for the Center, we know the real reason he’s appearing is that his heroes since he was 12 years old include Bugs Bunny and Thomas Jefferson.
Lewis Black is a playwright, known better for his appearances on The Daily Show and Conan O’Brien. Black is credited with telling the first joke at President Bush’s expense post-9/11. It came close to four months after the attacks. Some tragedies command a longer grace period than others.
Will Durst and Lewis Black will speak on political humor during crises with Howard Mortman as moderator on Tuesday, April 8, at 7pm in the Newcomb Hall Theater at UVA. Upcoming participants in the National Symposium on political humor include guests from Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Time Magazine.