Politics as UNusual


Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

The silly season is upon us!

Once again, the United States voter is faced with deciding who should occupy the Oval Office of the White House, while steadfastly ignoring all of our concerns for the next four years.

I’m a little worried. Our latest polling says we’re losing with whites, blacks and Hispanics, but we took 63% of the haven’t got a clue vote.

For humorists, presidential campaign season is a time of great joy and happiness. We’re just so incredibly thankful that our major political parties are providing us with numerous straight men (and women) free of charge. Call them candidates, if you must.

Even if politics is not your forte, there’s a lot to be learned from political humorists. A few examples that immediately come to mind:

Fairness Is Optional!
Presidential campaigns bring out the best, the worst, and the most outrageous humor writing to be found online or in print. Fairness is in no way related to many, if not most, of these jokes.

Don’t try to pick an ideal presidential candidate. Be willing to work with anyone in the My Bitch category.
– Wall Street Banker’s Handbook, Twenty-third Edition

Also, we’ve all seen funny attack ads, fair and unfair, but they are attack ads, the humor just makes them palatable to more people.

Candidate Frank Lee Marco Polo stated the blonde regularly seen in his car is “just a friend.” It appears this is true, but on a government salary, how does he afford her five hundred dollar per hour friend rate.

Most people feel a need to be fair. As a writer, there are times while you’re working when you should ignore that feeling.

Fairness is a choice, not a requirement.

That’s true for both fiction and non-fiction, and it’s certainly true in nearly all brands of humor.

Picking A Side – Also Optional
No political humorist has to pick a side in any campaign, unless they decide to promote a particular candidate. It’s just as easy to play both sides AND the middle, finding the funny in every political party, issue or candidate who happens to hit a news cycle with something less mundane than the weather report.

Absolutely! Our candidate will gladly give a statement regarding legalized marijuana as soon as he finishes smoking this bowl.

Take Advantage of Stupidity
The Holy Grail of political humorists is, of course, the scandal. There’s nothing like a campaigning candidate’s malfeasance, ethical misconduct, or red-handed criminal behavior to tune up the old funny meter. Then, there’s always the chance of an outright miracle. There is not a political humorist alive who won’t get religion if a favored candidate hits that mythical Trifecta, and SHE’s caught with hookers and blow.

Be still my heart!

I would have added a word or two about plain old adultery, but adultery in Washington, DC is about as rare as penguins with fish breath. There’s not much mileage beyond the candidate’s tearful apology as his party leadership dropkicks him out the door.

Worth a Bit of Study
Naturally, there’s much more to learn from political humor. I recommend my patented, Top Secret two-step process:

  • Study a bit
  • Relate it to your reality.

Book Cover image

“Hilarious! …and it’s funny, too.”

If you’re a writer and a voter, you’re going to be watching the campaign anyway as you make your decision. Pay a little extra attention to the political cartoons, columnists and commentators who make you laugh.

How did they do that?

Once you figure that out, relating it to your own work, your own humor, is easy. But please remember, even if your main character unfairly wields power, promotes his own agenda, and did something stupid—all in the same day—there’s still no requirement that he run for office.

Parting Funny: I bowled for two years in college, because I was drunk and needed shoes.
Kathleen Madigan

Next Up: Bigger Than You Think

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