The Political and Social Satirist

Satire is a humor maverick. Like topical humor, it has a life no longer than that of a fly, and one of the most famous satirical stylists, Mort Sahl, used to carry a rolled-up newspaper on stage as if he were ready to swat that fly. Satire reflects who and what are in the news at the very time a joke is being told. Next week the same material may be too old.

Satire attacks social and political targets and, therefore, is very controversial for large, mixed audiences. Satirist Will Rogers felt that if he could score a 50 percent "laugh rate" he was doing well. Mark Russell is the only political satirist on TV, and then only on Public Broadcasting. The public feels more tolerant toward print satirists, like Art Buchwald, Russell Baker, and Ellen Goodman, who appear on the Op Ed pages of newspapers. Perhaps that's because, in performance, there's a second when the audience is thinking-not laughing. And for a performer, even thoughtful silence can be deadly.

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