Writing Political Comedy – An Intro to Laughing at Your Politics and the American Political System

So political comedy is your thing, eh? The purpose of this article is to help you get started in making political jokes. It is also an attempt at thinning the paint that is our polarized politics, if you will. I want to add water to the orange concentrate that is our unwavering partisan views and beliefs in the United States. In the spirit of the Gulf oil spill, I want to take oil and water in a jar, and shake it until I get conservatives intermingling with liberals in an effort to bring the two sides together. Laughter is a powerful tool and it can bring people together. Poking fun at our political beliefs is a good way of creating humility and seeing what the other side sees. I have found this to motivate me and others to laugh at ourselves and work with our opposites not just in politics.

It pains me to see my country divided on almost all issues. Our political party system has divided the United States in two on things ranging from foreign policy to something as insignificant as clothing style! I heard an older gentleman say to a twenty something year old, “Uhm, kid? Your pants are too low and baggy.” The kid responded, ” Uhm gramps? Your pants are too high and tight.” Where does the madness end? For a more serious example, there is uproar about an Islam group wanting to establish a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. In a struggle for power and public support, it didn’t take very long for our politicians to turn the issue into politics. In turn I am seeing this create a civilian divide between those who believe the mosque is insensitive to the families of those who fell at Ground Zero and those who argue for religious freedom (i.e., conservatives and liberals, respectively). And of course, both sides are stubborn.

Enough with the serious stuff and let’s get to the comedy. First, avoid your temptation to make jokes about your political opposite. I know that it’s hard. They make it so easy for us, don’t they? The problem is that it just adds to the stonewall partisanship and makes your opponents angry at you. You can poke fun at the other side when you give your politics equal time. Showing your opponent that you can joke about yourself will open them up for jokes about their beliefs.

Second, read the political sections in newspapers (including online) and watch political news on TV. As you read or watch the news, try not to think about what the issues mean or how they affect you (you can do this later). This helps us avoid embedding ourselves in the issue. I know that this seems difficult, but I will walk you through later.

Third, find the eccentricities in the news stories. Believe me, this part isn’t hard. What you might find difficult is avoiding seriously analyzing the meanings of the topics. With enough practice, however, you’ll be able to extract the comedy potential from the most serious of topics.

Let me walk you through a simple example. I used this very news story in a similar way in my political humor blog:

On August 15th, 2010, Tea Party members held a rally in Arizona on the border with Mexico. Let’s forget about why the rally was held (remember: avoid the main topic/issue). What do you think was so eccentric about this news? Well, Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County addressed the crowd of Tea Partiers. Now, this guys is eccentric on his own, but put him on the border, allow him to speak, and comedy ensues. This purveyor of order and law enforcement told the crowd that he would climb the border fence if all of the country’s television news was there to report it. If you don’t see the comedy in this, don’t worry, it takes practice for some. I don’t care if you have even the most conservative ideologies. The SHERIFF, not even just a deputy, the Sheriff of a major U.S. county (1) wants to break the law, no, international law, and (2) he doesn’t think the rest of the country will hear about it. He also said that border patrol should be allowed to cross the border and prevent migrants from crossing.

That part is the raw material. We need to shape it to make it funnier (or in some cases, funny at all). What can we add to make it funnier? Look at his picture. What does he look like? Is he on overweight side of the spectrum? How high is the fence? Bring in YouTube.com. Nothing gets past being posted on Youtube.com these days, so how can he think no one will see his lawlessness? Exaggerate it. Compare it to something funny or an exaggerated version of it. Make the connection between allowing border patrol to cross the border and preventing migrants with invading a foreign country and declaring preeminent illegal immigration sweeps. What does that sound like? Bush’s preemptive war maybe? What else? Make a list and see what has comedy potential. Then try your joke on your opposite party friends. If they laugh, it’s good. Then introduce it to the less partisan friends on your side of the fence.

That news story is comedy gold! If you can’t laugh at that, keep thinking about the irony, the eccentricity, or made odd comparisons. The point is to find humor in your views. Then spend some humor time on the other side. Laughter is a powerful tool in bringing people together. Remember to find comedy in yourself before ripping the other side with your comedy genius. It helps to loosen you from your polar barrier.

For more hilarious examples (most of them at least), find them on my blog linked below – The BCN Report.