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Both the comedy and the news coverage of our decade and decades past reflect each era’s understanding of public relations and doublespeak.Now, news parody is truly a tool with which to strike back at political PR.Critical verbal humor is a very specific thing—one reason that American film comedies struggle for viewers overseas.
But she’s not just clever: she’s a tough-minded Rhodes Scholar, former aids activist, and an out lesbian.
Her very existence as an anchor on cable television defies a number of different common wisdoms. But to my mind, what really makes the show special is how it embodies the rise of what I think of as sarcasm news.
At the 30 Rock news television studio, with its red, white, and blue décor, late-night assistants running about, and two dozen television screens on all around her, Maddow seems in her element.
And when the show begins, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is devoted to “Blago”—the thoroughly and hilariously embarrassing (and now former) Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.
Maddow asks the “awkward question,” as she puts it: Is Blago not well?
She riffs a bit and then concludes, with a sarcastic smile, “Illinois, you are getting almost as fun to cover as Alaska!
Karl Rove, on the other hand, is widely seen as a vile little prince of handling.
Yet Deaver, if we remember, was as much a master manipulator as Rove was; he got Reagan, you’ll recall, to gin up fake remorse during the Iran-Contra affair.
Along with her precursor, the five-year-old Countdown With Keith Olbermann, these are two “real” news programs permeated by parody. For starters, today’s bloggers and You Tube snidesters see parody as information and information as parody. Now, the news-with-satire approach can seem like the only thing that makes sense, since at least these shows are in on their own jokes.
Even politicians sometimes embrace the idea of themselves as caricatures.