The way people get their news has evolved over time. Aside from word-of-mouth, the newspaper is probably the oldest form of news, but with changing times it has been superseded first by radio, then cable television, and finally the Internet. Each evolution has been accompanied by apprehension from the older generations who are reluctant to give up their old, familiar ways. This has held true for the most recent shift—which was not only a shift in form but also a shift in perspective: relaying the news through comedy.
More than ever before, people are turning to late-night talk show hosts like Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert and sketch comedy programs like SNL to stay informed on current events. Since these sources are not traditional journalism, many believe they cannot accurately convey the complexities of certain issues and that this practice is “ruining our country.” However, I would argue that although comedy may not be the best way to get your news, it is still useful and does not mark the demise of the nation.
In recent years, the news has been especially depressing and scary. I know the struggle of wanting to stay informed but also being overwhelmed and upset by all of the terrible things said and done. Comedy is a great coping tool because it just makes everything a little less sad. You’re still hearing the same information, but it lessens the blow a little and provides some levity. Everybody needs this break. If you fall into a cycle of reading or hearing about things like family separation, the tear-gassing of migrants at the border, and Trump’s bizarre and upsetting comments on basically everything, it is easy to fall into a rabbit hole of negativity, thinking the world is all bad. But when this news is told with some jokes on the side, you think, “OK yes, the world sucks, but I’m laughing, so maybe everything will be OK.”
Although they are not traditional news sources, these comedians are not just making up this information. Behind the scenes, a team of seasoned writers dedicate hours to meticulous research to ensure they are spreading the correct information. Do they get it wrong sometimes? Of course, but traditional news sources are often wrong as well. After all, they’re only human and bound to make a mistake every now and then. There is no way for them to be completely confident in the accuracy of their information, but as long as they reference established sources, we can trust they are doing the best they can.
Another benefit to this form of news is its accessibility; many late-night talk shows are available for free on sites like YouTube the day after airing. This is important because many people use streaming services or do not have access to a television entirely, so they cannot watch cable or local news channels. In addition, many people are too busy to sit down and read articles everyday, whether they are online or in a newspaper. While we may consider these sources the best ways to gain a full understanding of important issues, expecting this of everyone is simply not plausible.
Clearly, turning to comedians for the news is a viable option. Even so, many people are put off by the progressive leanings of many shows, either because they disagree with the viewpoints or think the coverage is too subjective. I would argue that as long as you are conscious of the potential biases associated with a story, it is not inherently harmful to consume this form of media.
In a perfect world, everyone would start their day off with a thorough reading of multiple news sources in order to be informed on current events and issues. Clearly, this world is far from perfect, and that’s precisely why we need comedy to soften the blow of bad news. As things in the world keep getting worse, it's something that only seems to be growing in popularity. So don’t feel bad about getting your news exclusively from Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Seth Meyers—instead, enjoy laughing through the pain.