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Politics Is a Joke!: How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life Paperback – July 22, 2014
by S. Robert Lichter (Author), Jody C Baumgartner (Author), Jonathan S. Morris (Author)

Does late night political humor matter? Are late-night comedians merely entertaining, or do they have the power to influence the way we think about politics and politicians? Politics Is a Joke! situates late night comedy in the historical context of political humor and demonstrates how the public turn to this venue for political information, and are in turn affected by it.

Using exclusive data collected by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the authors conduct a detailed and exhaustive analysis of political jokes on late night TV shows dating back to 1992 in order to pinpoint the main targets and themes of late-night comedy. Politics Is a Joke! uses a wide range of examples, from jokes about politicians’ physical appearance and sex scandals to jokes about Congress and even the news media, to assess and understand the impact of political humor on political institutions, politicians and their policies and behavior.

Engagingly written with analysis of jokes from comedians like Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Politics is a Joke! is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial role late night comedy plays in our political universe—and anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

Review
“Politics Is a Joke! is an outstanding contribution to explaining and evaluating the expanding role of humor in American political culture, politics, and government. It is an exceptional piece of scholarship in service to the classroom in its clear and cogent quantitative and qualitative analysis of late night political humor and its impact on mass audiences.”
Michael Fitzgerald, University of Tennessee

“Politics Is a Joke! does an excellent job of determining how political humor influences public perception of presidents and other political figures. The authors provide a thorough analysis of late night talk shows that hold sway with the public, including those of Comedy Central, often to the extent of influencing the outcome of a presidential election. Readers will find the work of these authors intriguing.”
Terri Jett, Butler University

From the Back Cover
Does late night political humor matter? Are late night comedians merely entertaining, or do they have the power to influence the way we think about politics and politicians? Politics is a Joke! demonstrates how the public turns to late night comedy for political information and is in turn affected by it.

Using exclusive data from the Center for Media and Public Affairs, the authors conduct a detailed and exhaustive analysis of political jokes on late night shows dating back to 1992. Drawing on examples from comedians like Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, the authors pinpoint the main targets and themes of late night comedy and examine its impact on political institutions and politicians. Politics is a Joke! is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crucial role late night comedy plays in our political universe—and for anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

“Politics is a Joke! is an outstanding contribution to explaining and evaluating the expanding role of humor in American political culture, politics, and government. It is an exceptional piece of scholarship in service to the classroom in its clear and cogent quantitative and qualitative analysis of late night political humor and its impact on mass audiences.”
—Michael Fitzgerald, University of Tennessee

“Politics is a Joke! does an excellent job of determining how political humor influences public perception of presidents and other political figures. The authors provide a thorough analysis of late night talk shows that hold sway with the public. Readers will find the work of these authors intriguing.”
—Terri Jett, Butler University

S. Robert Lichter is professor of communication at George Mason University, where he also directs the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS). His most recent books are The Nightly News Nightmare (3rd ed.) and The Global President (with Stephen Farnsworth and Roland Schatz).

Jody C Baumgartner is associate professor of political science at East Carolina University. His latest books include Conventional Wisdom and American Elections (with Peter Francia) and Laughing Matters: Humor and American Politics in the Media Age (co-edited with Jonathan Morris).

Jonathan S. Morris is associate professor of political science at East Carolina University. Morris is co-editor of Laughing Matters: Humor and American Politics in the Media Age (with Jody Baumgartner).