Political Satire Takes the Stage


Students in an AP Government class.

After a grueling week of school, Bronx Science students enjoy nothing more than sitting themselves in front of their televisions and computers. They eagerly look forward to catching up on all of their favorite shows that they sacrificed for homework and for (some) sleep. In an election year, political analyses as well as satires are becoming an all time favorite of Science students.

The 2016 presidential election has resulted in an immense amount of media attention on mainly Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Prior to March 2016, Trump had received more than two million dollars worth of free media, a shocking amount for a candidate who had not even won the Republican primary at that point in time.

While a lot of media coverage for both candidates has been centered around their policies and scandals, a large portion has been highly satirical.

One of the many programs to satirize this election is Saturday Night Live (SNL), which frequently features political skits that poke fun at major party candidates. Airing almost every Saturday night at 11:30 on NBC, SNL often opens with a skit about the most relevant political event of the week.

On the show, several political figures are satirized and their defining characteristics are exaggerated by comedians. Most recently, Donald Trump has been portrayed by Darrell Hammond and Alec Baldwin, Hillary Clinton by Kate McKinnon, Bernie Sanders by Larry David, and Chris Christie by Bobby Moynihan.

Many Bronx Science students look forward to watching Saturday Night Live. It allows them to become more involved in current events in an enjoyable manner.

“SNL does not affect my political position, but it does bring viewpoints to my attention that I then go and research to form my own opinions,” Donia Ballan ’19 said.

Saturday Night Live also features  ‘The Weekend Update.’ During this segment, comedian anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che discuss the news of the past week with sarcastic interjections. With the upcoming presidential elections, Jost and Che have allocated a large portion of  ‘The Weekend Update’ to tease presidential candidates. Sometimes, though, their jokes air on the side of insulting.

“The skits definitely target the Republican politicians more, as the mainstream media generally does,” said Sophie Zinberg ’19.

While some analytical television programs try to remain unbiased when covering political events or presidential candidates, many satirical shows tend to be more accommodating of left-wing politicians and more harsh towards right-wing politicians. Despite this, Hillary Clinton, who leans left on the political spectrum, has certainly received her fair share of criticism and teasing.

Students have also pegged Real Time with Bill Maher as a favorite for political satire. Real Time airs Friday nights on HBO. Maher has spent the past several months focusing on the election in a jocular manner.

During the show, Maher recaps the news of the week and comments sarcastically on each news item. Later in the show, he goes to a table with three to four other people who hold different political viewpoints to discuss political news and predictions with them. A very vocal critic of Donald Trump, Maher often interjects and insults any Republicans sitting at the table.

Maher offers a unique take on politics within his program. Many viewers are often captivated by the respectable blend of analytical and satirical discussion that encompasses multiple viewpoints Maher promotes. It is easy to enjoy his show while learning all sides of a political argument.

Students also enjoy watching other satirical programs. Jason Qu ’17, a public supporter of Hillary Clinton, watches several left-leaning shows for political entertainment. In addition to Real Time with Bill Maher, Qu watches Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

“The shows I watch don’t really influence my political opinions, because I’ve held these beliefs before watching the shows. However, they do reinforce my principles and are in line with what I believe in. I think that watching only liberal shows isn’t the best thing to do, because I’m placing myself in a media bubble, where I am exposed to statements with which I already agree,” Qu said.

This Friday, as you drop your backpack on the floor to be left untouched until you start your homework on Sunday, consider watching a political show. You might just get a laugh – and a new policy – out of it.