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The Funniest Pages

International Perspectives on Humor in Journalism


Edited By David Swick and Richard Lance Keeble

Charles Dickens, celebrated novelist and journalist, believed that his greatest ability as a writer was to make people laugh. Yet, to date, humor has been strangely marginalized in journalism, communication and media studies.
This innovative book draws together the work of seventeen writers to show that, starting in the 1640s during the English Civil War, and continuing through to the present time, humor has indeed been an important ingredient of journalism. Countries studied include Australia, Britain, Canada, Chile and the United States. The Funniest Pages is divided into four sections: «Seriously Funny, From Past to Present,» «Unsolemn Columnists,» «This Sporting Life» and a final section, «Have Mouse, Will Laugh,» which looks at humor in online journalism. Chapters examine Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and the birth of social and political satire; Allen Ginsberg, Mad magazine, and the culture wars of the 1950s; John Clarke and the power of satire in journalism, and more.
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Chapter Fifteen: Speaking Truth to Power in 140 Characters or Less: Political Satire, Civic Engagement and Journalism


← 220 | 221 →CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Political Satire, Civic Engagement and Journalism


On 10 November 2014, the famed American comic Bill Cosby took to Twitter to send a simple message into the pop-culture ether: ‘Go ahead. Meme me.’ Originally intended as a wink at the internet and a bit of self-promotion prior to a comedy tour, the man beloved by millions as ‘America’s Dad’ was in for a surprise. The ‘Twitterverse’ accepted his challenge and greeted him with a bevy of images of Cosby in his Dr. Huxtable garb, headlined with accusatory statements regarding his string of alleged sexual offences.

While accusations of assault had dogged Cosby for over a decade (Lusk 2014), it wasn’t until a stand-up set by comedian Hannibal Buress appeared online that whispers became a roar. In the clip, Buress tells the audience to: ‘…leave here and Google “Bill Cosby rape.” It’s not funny. That [expletive] has more results than Hannibal Buress’ (ibid.). By the launch of Cosby’s ill-fated social media campaign just a few weeks later, the clip had gone viral and a slew of women—19 within a few months—had gone public with similar accounts of drugging and sexual assault by the 77-year-old comedian (ibid.).

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