Satire Spreads the News

Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver who are considered some of the best in satire.
Best names in the satire game. Media by Bre Pollitt.

Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Bre Pollitt.

Late night comedians have become rock stars in the Trump era,” states a video by Vox affiliate, Carlos Maza.

Much like the late night hosts themselves, Maza bluntly outlines problems with politics and the news sources that report on them. While journalists are essential to dispersing news stories, many reporting outlets lose people’s attention through long-winded debates and hypotheticals. So, late night comedians have taken advantage of one particular tool to present current issues: satire.

Some of the biggest names in the game include John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert. And, of course, everyone on “Saturday Night Live.”

Maza says,

Part of what makes Trump such an easy target for satire is that a lot of what he says is ridiculous.”

Comedians not only critique Trump’s speeches, but often pull Tweets directly from his Twitter account, which makes for some interesting fact and grammar checks, as illustrated by Seth Meyers.

But, these late night hosts don’t just spend their time making fun of Trump–they tackle other relevant issues as well. John Oliver’s recent videos talked about the French elections, gerrymandering, and marijuana. Some of these stories might not appear important and the topic might seem obscure (i.e. what on earth is gerrymandering?), but comedians like Oliver have a knack for indicating the importance of these topics while presenting them in an entertaining and honest fashion.

While comedians are known for their critiques of prominent people and issues, they are not above condemnation themselves. One article summed up complaints that late night hosts receive: accusations of biased reporting and “vicious” or “mean-spirited” attacks on the show’s subjects. Jeff Crouere, the author, claimed that late night comedians disproportionately target Conservatives in their satirical episodes and stated that their jokes are too insulting. He suggested creating a late night show with a Conservative host as a way to balance out the “choir of liberals” whose views are typically reflected by the comedians.

Not all late night shows necessarily fit into this mold, however. “The Tonight Show,” starring Jimmy Fallon, focuses less on politics than popular culture. Although Fallon criticized Trump on the show, Crouere regarded his statements as less severe than other hosts like Stephen Colbert. This raises the question, should late night hosts focus solely on entertainment, or is it acceptable for them to use their shows to discuss politics?

Jimmy Fallon and dressed up as Sara and for a skit on the Tonight Show. Source:


Sophia McClennen, the Director of the Center for Global Affairs at the Pennsylvania State University, was featured in Maza’s video and offered professional insight. Contrary to Crouere’s opinions, she said,

People think of satirists as very partisan. But the point is, satirists are after good rational thinking. What you would see that the satirists have that would be lovely to see in the basic news media is this sort of defense of reason.”

While McClennen didn’t deny that late night hosts are partisan, as Crouere claimed, she focused on how they push viewers to investigate the facts surrounding situations instead of blindly accepting statements from political figures or news sources.

Satire makes the (late night) world go ‘round. While it’s still up for debate whether the comedic hosts of these shows should focus solely on entertainment or share their opinions on current events, it doesn’t look like the shows’ millions of followers will let things change anytime soon.


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