According to tvbythenumbers.com “Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash 2008″ got the highest ratings for broadcast television on election night. At the time of the writing of this column the ratings for cable television were not available yet, but I’m willing to venture that “The Daily Show,” with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert anchoring, captured a large portion of cable viewers. Since the show was posted on November 5 at comedycentral.com, there have already been 67,419 views of the program.
Does the fact that Americans turned to comedy shows on election night prove that TV viewing Americans just can’t take anything seriously? Or does it prove that Americans have a hard time taking the pundits seriously, and gravitate toward the art of comedy for a deeper truth? Yes, I said the art of comedy. Children and jesters speak the truth when everyone else is embarrassed (or is that bare assed?) And what do people do when they are exposed and nervous? They laugh. Laughter can be complex, a sign that we recognize contradictions or suddenly see something in a new light that we had not considered or even thought of before.
It’s not good or bad that people turn to comedy. The truth is they probably switched channels between commercials and got different angles from different channels. What the ratings do show is that the Arts are more integral to politics than is generally acknowledged. In fact the Arts are major tools for propaganda and can be quite dangerous and cruel in the hands of dictators. Corporations have their own reasons for using artists and the Arts to manipulate behavior.
Whatever your politics or particular point of view, you as a creator, have your own tremendous power to influence the world around you. You, the arts professional, have honed your skills and should recognize that you belong, and are integral to the way our society processes information and current events. In this new era of change, go forth and create!