From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.
A common feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm—"in satire, irony is militant"—but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This "militant" irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.
Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, and media such as lyrics.
The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase lanx satura. Satur meant "full," but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to "miscellany or medley": the expression lanx satura literally means "a full dish of various kinds of fruits."
The word satura as used by Quintilian, however, was used to denote only Roman verse satire, a strict genre that imposed hexameter form, a narrower genre than what would be later intended as satire. Quintilian famously said that satura, that is a satire in hexameter verses, was a literary genre of wholly Roman origin (satura tota nostra est). He was aware of and commented on Greek satire, but at the time did not label it as such, although today the origin of satire is considered to be Aristophanes' Old Comedy. The first critic to use satire in the modern broader sense was Apuleius.
The derivation of satire from satura properly has nothing to do with the Greek mythological figure Persian literature. To Quintilian, the satire was a strict literary form, but the term soon escaped from the original narrow definition. Robert Elliott writes:
"As soon as a noun enters the domain of metaphor, as one modern scholar has pointed out, it clamours for extension; and satura (which had had no verbal, adverbial, or adjectival forms) was immediately broadened by appropriation from the Greek word for “satyr” (satyros) and its derivatives. The odd result is that the English “satire” comes from the Latin satura; but “satirize,” “satiric,” etc., are of Greek origin. By about the 4th century AD the writer of satires came to be known as satyricus; St. Jerome, for example, was called by one of his enemies 'a satirist in prose' ('satyricus scriptor in prosa'). Subsequent orthographic modifications obscured the Latin origin of the word satire: satura becomes satyra, and in England, by the 16th century, it was written 'satyre.'"
Satire and humour
Satirical works often contain "straight" humour, usually to give relief from what might otherwise be relentless preaching. Although this has always been so, it is probably more marked in modern satire. Yet some satire is not "funny", nor is meant to be. Obviously, not all humour - even on such topics as politics, religion or art, or using the great satirical tools of irony, parody, and burlesque - is necessarily "satirical"; the most light-hearted satire always has a serious "after-taste". The Ig Nobel Prize satire on trivial scientific research describes this as "first make people laugh, and then make them think" - a fair definition of satire itself.
Social and psychological functions
Satire and irony in some cases have been regarded as the most effective source to understand a society, the oldest form of social study. They are effective in exposing a society's structures of power and providing the keenest insights into its collective psyche and values. Some author have regarded satire as superior to non-comic and non-artistic disciplines like history or anthropology. In a prominent example from Ancient Greece, philosopher Plato, when asked by a friend for a book to understand Athenian society, referred him to the plays of Aristophanes.
The state of political satire in a given country reflects the state of civil liberties and human rights. Under totalitarian regimes any criticism of a political system including satire is suppressed. A typical example is the Soviet Union where the dissidents, such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov were under strong pressure from the government. While satire of everyday life in the USSR was allowed, the most prominent satirist being Arkady Raikin, political satire existed in the form of anecdotes that made fun of Soviet political leaders, especially Brezhnev, famous for his narrow-mindness and love for awards and decorations.
Classifications of Satire
Horatian vs Juvenalian
Satirical literature can commonly be categorized as either Horatian or Juvenalian, although the two are not entirely mutually exclusive.
Horatian satire, named for the Roman satirist, Horace (65 BCE – 8 BCE), playfully criticizes some social vice through gentle, mild, and light-hearted humour. It directs wit, exaggeration, and self-deprecating humour toward what it identifies as folly, rather than evil. Horatian satire's sympathetic tone is common in modern society.
Examples of Horatian satire include:
- Daniel Defoe's The True-Born Englishman
- Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock
- S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters
- Matt Groening's The Simpsons
- Rick Mercer's The Rick Mercer Report
- The Ig Nobel Prizes.
- Have I Got News For You
Juvenalian satire, named after the Roman satirist Juvenal (late 1st century - early 2nd century CE), is a type of satire that is more contemptuous and abrasive than the Horatian. Juvenalian satire addresses social evil through scorn, outrage, and savage ridicule. This form is often pessimistic, characterized by irony, sarcasm, moral indignation and personal invective, with less emphasis on humour. Strongly polarized political satire is often Juvenalian.
Examples of Juvenalian satire:
- Joseph Hall's Virgidemiarum
- Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal and The Predictions for the Ensuing Year (written as Isaac Bickerstaff).
- Samuel Johnson's London
- George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm
- Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho
- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
- William Golding's Lord of the Flies
- Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
- Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange
- Chris Morris's "Brasseye" & "The Day Today"
- Joseph Heller's Catch-22
- William Burroughs' Naked Lunch
- Jon Stewart's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- Stephen Colbert's performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner
- Trey Parker & Matt Stone's South Park
- Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Julian Barnes' England, England
Satire vs Teasing
In the history of theatre there has always been a conflict between engagement and disengagement on politics and relevant issue, between satire and grotesque on one side, and jest with teasing on the other. Max Eastman defined the spectrum of satire in terms of "degrees of biting," as ranging from satire proper at the hot-end, and "kidding" at the violet-end; Eastman adopted the term kidding to denote what is just satirical in form, but is not really firing at the target. Nobel laureate satirical playwright Dario Fo pointed out the difference between satire and teasing (sfottò). Teasing is the reactionary side of the comic, it limits itself to a shallow parody of physical appearance; the side-effect of teasing is that it humanizes and draws sympaty for the powerful individual towards which is directed. Satire instead uses the comic to go against power and its oppressions, has a subversive character, and a moral dimension which draws judgement against its targets. Fo formulated an operational criteria to tell real satire from sfottò, saying that real satire arouses an outraged and violent reaction, and that the more they try to stop you, the better is the job you are doing. Historically, people in positions of power have welcomed and encouraged good-humoured buffoonery, while have tried to censor, ostracize and repress satire.
Teasing (sfottò) is an ancient form of simple buffoonery, a form of comedy without satire's subversive edge. Teasing includes light and affectionate parody, good-humoured mockery, simple one-dimensional poking fun, benign spoofs. Teasing typically consists in a impersonation of someone monkeying around with his exterior attributes, tics, physical blemishes, voice and mannerisms, quirks, way of dressing and walking, the phrases he typically repeats. By contrast, teasing never touches on the core issue, never makes a serious criticism judging the target with irony; it never harms the target's conduct, ideology and position of power; it never undermines the perception of his morality and cultural dimension. Sfottò directed towards a powerful individual, makes him appear more human and draws sympathy towards him. Hermann Göring propagated jests and jokes against himself, with the aim of humanizing his image.
Classifications by topics
Types of satire can also be classified according to the topics it deals with. From the earliest times, at least since the plays of Aristophanes, the primary topics of literary satire are politics, religion and sex. On one hand because these are the most pressing problems that affect anybody living in a society, and on the other hand because these topics are usually taboo, considered sacred and off-limits by social etiquette. Among these, politics in the broader sense is considered the pre-eminent topic of satire. Satire which targets the clergy is a type of political satire, while satire on religion is that which targets religious beliefs.
Scatology has a long literary association with satire. The use of scatology is closely related to the grotesque and what is sometimes called the satiric grotesque. Shit plays a fundamental role in satire because it symbolizes death, the turd being "the ultimate dead object." The satirical comparison of individuals or institutions with shit, exposes their "inherent inertness, corruption and dead-likeness."
Another classification by topics, is the distinction between political satire, religious satire and satire of manners. Political satire is sometimes called topical satire, satire of manners is sometimes called satire of everyday life, and religious satire is sometimes called philosophical satire. Comedy of manners, sometimes also called satire of manners, criticizes mode of life of common people; political satire aims at behavior, manners of politicians, and vices of political systems; philosophical satire has as its object global vices inherent to mankind. Historically, Comedy of manners, which first appeared in British theater in 1620, has uncritically accepted the social code of the upper classes. Comedy in general accepts the rules of the social game, while satire subverts them.
One of the earliest examples of what we might call satire, The Satire of the Trades, is in Egyptian writing from the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The text's apparent readers are students, tired of studying. It argues that their lot as scribes is useful, and their lot far superior to that of the ordinary man. Scholars such as Helck think that the context was meant to be serious.
The Papyrus Anastasi I (late 2nd millennium BC) contains a satirical letter which first praises the virtues of its recipient, but then mocks the reader's meagre knowledge and achievements.
The Greeks had no word for what later would be called "satire", although the terms cynicism and parody were used. Modern critics call the Greek playwright Aristophanes one of the best known early satirists: his plays are known for their critical political and societal commentary, particularly for the political satire by which he criticized the powerful Cleon (as in The Knights). He is also notable for the persecution he underwent. Aristophanes' plays turned upon images of filth and disease. His bawdy style was adopted by Greek dramatist-comedian Menander. His early play Drunkenness contains an attack on the politician Callimedon.
The oldest form of satire still in use is the Menippean satire by Menippus of Gadara. His own writings are lost. Examples from his admirers and imitators mix seriousness and mockery in dialogues and present parodies before a background of diatribe. The reader is meant to question approved truths in order to form a didactic set of knowledge. As in the case of Aristophanes plays, menippean satire turned upon images of filth and disease.
The first Roman to discuss satire critically was Quintilian, who invented the term to describe the writings of Lucilius. The two most prominent and influential ancient Roman satirists are Horace and Juvenal, who wrote during the early days of the Roman Empire. Other important satirists in ancient Latin are Lucilius and Persius. Satire in their work is much wider than in the modern sense of the word, including fantastic and highly coloured humorous writing with little or no real mocking intent. When Horace criticized Augustus, he used veiled ironic terms. In contrast, Pliny reports that the 6th century BC poet Hipponax wrote satirae that were so cruel that the offended hanged themselves.
Medieval Islamic world
Medieval Arabic poetry included the satiric genre hija. Satire was introduced into Arabic prose literature by the Afro-Arab author Al-Jahiz in the 9th century. While dealing with serious topics in what are now known as anthropology, sociology and psychology, he introduced a satirical approach, "based on the premise that, however serious the subject under review, it could be made more interesting and thus achieve greater effect, if only one leavened the lump of solemnity by the insertion of a few amusing anecdotes or by the throwing out of some witty or paradoxical observations. He was well aware that, in treating of new themes in his prose works, he would have to employ a vocabulary of a nature more familiar in hija, satirical poetry." For example, in one of his zoological works, he satirized the preference for longer human penis size, writing: "If the length of the penis were a sign of honor, then the mule would belong to the (honorable tribe of) Quraysh". Another satirical story based on this preference was an Arabian Nights tale called "Ali with the Large Member".
In the 10th century, the writer Tha'alibi recorded satirical poetry written by the Arabic poets As-Salami and Abu Dulaf, with As-Salami praising Abu Dulaf's wide breadth of knowledge and then mocking his ability in all these subjects, and with Abu Dulaf responding back and satirizing As-Salami in return. An example of Arabic political satire included another 10th century poet Jarir satirizing Farazdaq as "a transgressor of the Sharia" and later Arabic poets in turn using the term "Farazdaq-like" as a form of political satire.
The terms "comedy" and "satire" became synonymous after Aristotle's Poetics was translated into Arabic in the medieval Islamic world, where it was elaborated upon by Islamic philosophers and writers, such as Abu Bischr, his pupil Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes. Due to cultural differences, they disassociated comedy from Greek dramatic representation and instead identified it with Arabic poetic themes and forms, such as hija (satirical poetry). They viewed comedy as simply the "art of reprehension", and made no reference to light and cheerful events, or troubled beginnings and happy endings, associated with classical Greek comedy. After the Latin translations of the 12th century, the term "comedy" thus gained a new semantic meaning in Medieval literature.
Ubayd Zakani introduced satire in Persian literature during the 14th century. His work is noted for its satire and obscene verses, often political or bawdy, and often cited in debates involving homosexual practices. He wrote the Resaleh-ye Delgosha, as well as Akhlaq al-Ashraf ("Ethics of the Aristocracy") and the famous humorous fable Masnavi Mush-O-Gorbeh (Mouse and Cat), which was a political satire. His non-satirical serious classical verses have also been regarded as very well written, in league with the other great works of Persian literature. Between 1905 and 1911, Bibi Khatoon Astarabadi and other Iranian writers wrote notable satires.
In the Early Middle Ages, examples of satire were the songs by Goliards or vagants now best known as an anthology called Carmina Burana and made famous as texts of a composition by the 20th century composer Carl Orff. Satirical poetry is believed to have been popular, although little has survived. With the advent of the High Middle Ages and the birth of modern vernacular literature in the 12th century, it began to be used again, most notably by Chaucer. The disrespectful manner was considered "Unchristian" and ignored but for the moral satire, which mocked misbehaviour in Christian terms. Examples are Livre des Manières by Étienne de Fougères (~1170), and some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The epos was mocked, and even the feudal society, but there was hardly a general interest in the genre.
Two major satirists of Europe in the Renaissance were Giovanni Boccaccio and François Rabelais. Other examples of Renaissance satire include Till Eulenspiegel, Reynard the Fox, Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff (1494), Erasmus' Moriae Encomium (1509) and Thomas More's Utopia (1516).
Early modern western satire
Direct social commentary via satire returned with a vengeance in the 16th century, when farcical texts such as the works of François Rabelais tackled more serious issues (and incurred the wrath of the crown as a result).
The Elizabethan (i.e. 16th century English) writers thought of satire as related to the notoriously rude, coarse and sharp satyr play. Elizabethan "satire" (typically in pamphlet form) therefore contains more straightforward abuse than subtle irony. The French Huguenot Isaac Casaubon pointed out in 1605 that satire in the Roman fashion was something altogether more civilised. Casaubon discovered and published Quintilian's writing and presented the original meaning of the term (satira, not satyr), and the sense of wittiness (reflecting the "dishfull of fruits") became more important again. 17th century English satire once again aimed at the "amendment of vices" (Dryden).
In the 1590s a new wave of verse satire broke with the publication of Hall's Virgidemiarum, six books of verse satires targeting everything from literary fads to corrupt noblemen. Although Donne had already circulated satires in manuscript, Hall's was the first real attempt in English at verse satire on the Juvenalian model. The success of his work combined with a national mood of disillusion in the last years of Elizabeth's reign triggered an avalanche of satire - much of it less conscious of classical models than Hall's - until the fashion was brought to an abrupt stop by censorship.
The Age of Enlightenment, an intellectual movement in the 17th and 18th century advocating rationality, produced a great revival of satire in Britain. This was fuelled by the rise of partisan politics, with the formalisation of the Tory and Whig parties - and also, in 1714, by the formation of the Scriblerus Club, which included Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Robert Harley, Thomas Parnell, and Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke. This club included several of the notable satirists of early 18th century Britain. They focused their attention on Martinus Scriblerus, "an invented learned fool...whose work they attributed all that was tedious, narrow-minded, and pedantic in contemporary scholarship". In their hands astute and biting satire of institutions and individuals became a popular weapon.
Jonathan Swift was one of the greatest of Anglo-Irish satirists, and one of the first to practise modern journalistic satire. For instance, In his A Modest Proposal Swift suggests that Irish peasants be encouraged to sell their own children as food for the rich, as a solution to the "problem" of poverty. His purpose is of course to attack indifference to the plight of the desperately poor. In his book Gulliver's Travels he writes about the flaws in human society in general and English society in particular. John Dryden wrote an influential essay entitled "A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire"  that helped fix the definition of satire in the literary world. His satirical Mac Flecknoe was written in response to a rivalry with Thomas Shadwell and eventually inspired Alexander Pope to write his satirical The Rape of the Lock. Other satirical works by Pope include the Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot.
Daniel Defoe pursued a more journalistic type of satire, being famous for his The True-Born Englishman which mocks xenophobic patriotism, and The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters - advocating religious toleration by means of an ironical exaggeration of the highly intolerant attitudes of his time.
Ebenezer Cooke, author of "The Sot-Weed Factor," was among the first American colonialists to write literary satire. Benjamin Franklin and others followed, using satire to shape an emerging nation's culture through its sense of the ridiculous.
Mark Twain was a great American satirist: his novel Huckleberry Finn is set in the antebellum South, where the moral values Twain wishes to promote are completely turned on their heads. His hero, Huck, is a rather simple but goodhearted lad who is ashamed of the "sinful temptation" that leads him to help a runaway slave. In fact his conscience, warped by the distorted moral world he has grown up in, often bothers him most when he is at his best. Ironically, he is prepared to do good, believing it to be wrong.
Twain's younger contemporary Ambrose Bierce gained notoriety as a cynic, pessimist and black humorist with his dark, bitterly ironic stories, many set during the American Civil War, which satirized the limitations of human perception and reason. Bierce's most famous work of satire is probably The Devil's Dictionary, in which the definitions mock cant, hypocrisy and received wisdom.
Satire in Victorian England
Novelists such as Charles Dickens often used passages of satiric writing in their treatment of social issues. Several satiric papers competed for the public's attention in the Victorian era and Edwardian period, such as Punch and Fun.
Perhaps the most enduring examples of Victorian satire, however, are to be found in the Savoy Operas of W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. In fact, in The Yeomen of the Guard, a jester is given lines that paint a very neat picture of the method and purpose of the satirist, and might almost be taken as a statement of Gilbert's own intent:
"I can set a braggart quailing with a quip,
The upstart I can wither with a whim;
He may wear a merry laugh upon his lip,
But his laughter has an echo that is grim!"
20th century satire
In the 20th century, satire was used by authors such as Aldous Huxley and George Orwell to make serious and even frightening commentaries on the dangers of the sweeping social changes taking place throughout Europe and United States. The film The Great Dictator (1940) by Charlie Chaplin is a satire on Adolf Hitler. Many social critics of the time, such as Karl Kraus, Dorothy Parker and H. L. Mencken, used satire as their main weapon, and Mencken in particular is noted for having said that "one horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms" in the persuasion of the public to accept a criticism. Joseph Heller's most famous work, Catch-22, satirizes bureaucracy and the military, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century. Novelist Sinclair Lewis was known for his satirical stories such as Babbitt, Main Street, and It Can't Happen Here. His books often explored and satirized contemporary American values.
The film Dr. Strangelove from 1964 was a popular satire on the Cold War. A more humorous brand of satire enjoyed a renaissance in the UK in the early 1960s with the Satire Boom, led by such luminaries as Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, and Dudley Moore, whose stage show Beyond the Fringe was a hit not only in Britain, but also in the United States. Other significant influences in 1960s British satire include David Frost, Eleanor Bron and the television program That Was The Week That Was. Paul Krassner's magazine The Realist was immensely popular during the 1960s and early 1970s among people in the counterculture and had articles and cartoons that were savage, biting satires of politicians such as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the War on Drugs.
Contemporary popular usage of the term "satire" is often very imprecise. While satire often uses caricature and parody, by no means are all uses of these or other humorous devices, satiric. Refer to the careful definition of satire that heads this article.
Stephen Colbert’s television program, The Colbert Report, is instructive in the methods of contemporary American satire. Colbert's character is an opinionated and self-righteous commentator who, in his TV interviews, interrupts people, points and wags his finger at them, and "unwittingly" uses a number of logical fallacies. In doing so, he demonstrates the principle of modern American political satire: the ridicule of the actions of politicians and other public figures by taking all their statements and purported beliefs to their furthest (supposedly) logical conclusion, thus revealing their perceived hypocrisy. Other political satire includes various political causes in the past, including the relatively successful Polish Beer-Lovers' Party and the joke political candidates Molly the Dog and Brian Miner.
The television program South Park relies almost exclusively on satire to address issues in American culture, with episodes addressing anti-Semitism, militant atheism, homophobia, environmentalism, corporate culture, political correctness and Catholic sex scandals, among many other issues.
In the United Kingdom, a popular modern satirist is Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the internationally best-selling Discworld book series. One of the most well-known and controversial British satirists is Chris Morris, co-writer and director of Four Lions.
Satire is used on many UK television programmes, particularly popular panel shows and quiz shows such as Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You, and The Now Show. Similarly it is found on radio quiz shows such as The News Quiz.
In Canada, satire has become an important part of the comedy scene. Stephen Leacock was one of the best known early Canadian satirists, and in the early 20th century, he achieved fame by targeting the attitudes of small town life. In more recent years, Canada has had several prominent satirical television series. Some, including CODCO, The Royal Canadian Air Farce, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes deal directly with current news stories and political figures, while others, like History Bites present contemporary social satire in the context of events and figures in history. The Canadian website The Daily Week combines social and political satire with absurdity. Canadian songwriter Nancy White uses music as the vehicle for her satire, and her comic folk songs are regularly played on CBC Radio.
Cartoonists often use satire as well as straight humour. Al Capp's satirical comic strip Li'l Abner was censored in September 1947. The controversy, as reported in Time, centred around Capp's portrayal of the US Senate. Said Edward Leech of Scripps-Howard, "We don't think it is good editing or sound citizenship to picture the Senate as an assemblage of freaks and crooks... boobs and undesirables."  Walt Kelly's Pogo was likewise censored in 1952 over his overt satire of Senator Joe McCarthy, caricatured in his comic strip as "Simple J. Malarky". Garry Trudeau, whose comic strip Doonesbury has charted and recorded many American follies for the last generation, deals with story lines such as the Vietnam War (and now, the Iraq War), dumbed-down education, and over-eating at "McFriendly's". Trudeau exemplifies humour mixed with criticism. Recently, one of his gay characters lamented that because he was not legally married to his partner, he was deprived of the "exquisite agony" of experiencing a nasty and painful divorce like heterosexuals. This, of course, satirized the claim that gay unions would denigrate the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Doonesbury also presents an example of how satire can cause social change. The comic strip satirized a Florida county that had a law requiring minorities to have a passcard in the area; the law was soon repealed with an act nicknamed the Doonesbury Act. Like some literary predecessors, many recent television satires contain strong elements of parody and caricature; for instance, the popular animated series The Simpsons and South Park both parody modern family and social life by taking their assumptions to the extreme; both have led to the creation of similar series. As well as the purely humorous effect of this sort of thing, they often strongly criticise various phenomena in politics, economic life, religion and many other aspects of society, and thus qualify as satirical. Due to their animated nature, these shows can easily use images of public figures and generally have greater freedom to do so than conventional shows using live actors.
Fake News is also a very popular form of contemporary satire, appearing in as wide an array of formats as the news media itself: print (e.g. The Onion, Private Eye), radio (e.g. On the Hour), television (e.g. The Day Today, The Daily Show, Brass Eye) and the web (e.g. Mindry.in, Scunt News, Faking News, The Giant Napkin, Unconfirmed Sources and The Onion's website). Other satires are on the list of satirists and satires. Another internet-driven form of satire is to lampoon bad internet performers. An example of this is the Internet meme character Miranda Sings.
In an interview with Wikinews, Sean Mills, President of The Onion, said angry letters about their news parody always carried the same message. "It’s whatever affects that person," said Mills. "So it’s like, 'I love it when you make a joke about murder or rape, but if you talk about cancer, well my brother has cancer and that’s not funny to me.' Or someone else can say, 'Cancer’s hilarious, but don’t talk about rape because my cousin got raped.' Those are rather extreme examples, but if it affects somebody personally, they tend to be more sensitive about it."
Zhou Libo, a comedian from Shanghai, is the most popular satirist in China. His humour has interested the middle-class people and had sold out shows ever since his rise to fame. Primarily a theater performer, Zhou said his work is never scripted, allowing him to improvise jokes about recent events. He often mocks political figures he supports.
Perception of satire
Because satire often combines anger and humour it can be profoundly disturbing - because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, it is often misunderstood.
Common uncomprehending responses to satire include revulsion (accusations of poor taste, or that "it's just not funny" for instance), to the idea that the satirist actually does support the ideas, policies, or people he is attacking. For instance, at the time of its publication, many people misunderstood Swift’s purpose in A Modest Proposal, assuming it to be a serious recommendation of economically motivated cannibalism. Again, some critics of Mark Twain see Huckleberry Finn as racist and offensive, missing the point that its author clearly intended it to be satire (racism being in fact only one of a number of Mark Twain's known concerns attacked in Huckleberry Finn). This same misconception was suffered by the main character of the 1960s British television comedy satire Till Death Us Do Part. The character of Alf Garnett (played by Warren Mitchell) was created to poke fun at the kind of narrow-minded, racist, little-Englander that Garnett represented. Instead, his character became a sort of anti-hero to people who actually agreed with his views. The same thing happened with conservative Americans in regard to the main character in the American TV Show All in the Family, Archie Bunker.
The Australian satirical television comedy show The Chaser's War on Everything has suffered repeated attacks based on various perceived interpretations of the "target" of its attacks. The "Make a Realistic Wish Foundation" sketch (June 2009), which attacked in classical satiric fashion the heartlessness of people who are reluctant to donate to charities, was widely interpreted as an attack on the Make a Wish Foundation, or even the terminally ill children helped by that organisation. Prime Minister of the time Kevin Rudd stated that The Chaser team "should hang their heads in shame". He went on to say that "I didn't see that but it's been described to me....But having a go at kids with a terminal illness is really beyond the pale, absolutely beyond the pale." Television station management suspended the show for two weeks and reduced the third season to eight episodes.
Satire under fire
Because satire criticises in an ironic, essentially indirect way, it frequently escapes censorship in a way more direct criticism might not. Periodically, however, it runs into serious opposition, and people in power who perceive themselves as attacked attempt to censor it or prosecute its practitioners. In a very early instance of this, Aristophanes was persecuted by the demagogue Cleon.
In 1599, the Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift and the Bishop of London George Abbot, whose offices had the function of licensing books for publication in England, issued a decree banning verse satire. The decree ordered the burning of certain volumes of satire by John Marston, Thomas Middleton, Joseph Hall, and others; it also required histories and plays to be specially approved by a member of the Queen's Privy Council, and it prohibited the future printing of satire in verse. The motives for the ban are obscure, particularly since some of the books banned had been licensed by the same authorities less than a year earlier. Various scholars have argued that the target was obscenity, libel, or sedition. It seems likely that lingering anxiety about the Martin Marprelate controversy, in which the bishops themselves had employed satirists, played a role; both Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey, two of the key figures in that controversy, suffered a complete ban on all their works. In the event, though, the ban was little enforced, even by the licensing authority itself.
In 2005, the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy caused global protests by offended Muslims and violent attacks with many fatalities in the Near East. It was not the first case of Muslim protests against criticism in the form of satire, but the Western world was surprised by the hostility of the reaction: Any country's flag in which a newspaper chose to publish the parodies was being burnt in a Near East country, then embassies were attacked, killing 139 people in mainly four countries (see article); politicians throughout Europe agreed that satire was an aspect of the freedom of speech, and therefore to be a protected means of dialogue. Iran threatened to start an International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, which was immediately responded to by Jews with an Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest.
In 2006 British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen released Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a "mockumentary" that satirized everyone, from high society to frat boys. Criticism of the film was heavy, from claims of antisemitism (despite the fact Cohen is Jewish) to the massive boycott of the film by the Kazakh government; the film itself had been a reaction to a longer quarrel between the government and the comedian.
In 2008, popular South African cartoonist and satirist Jonathan Shapiro (who is published under the pen name Zapiro) came under fire for depicting then-president of the ANC Jacob Zuma in the act of undressing in preparation for the implied rape of 'Lady Justice' which is held down by Zuma loyalists. The cartoon was drawn in response to Zuma's efforts to duck corruption charges, and the controversy was heightened by the fact that Zuma was himself acquitted of rape in May 2006. In February 2009, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, viewed by some opposition parties as the mouthpiece of the governing ANC, shelved a satirical TV show created by Shapiro, and in May 2009 the broadcaster pulled a documentary about political satire (featuring Shapiro among others) for the second time, hours before scheduled broadcast. Apartheid South Africa also had a long history of censorship.
Satire is occasionally prophetic: the jokes precede actual events. Among the eminent examples are:
- The 1784 presaging of modern daylight saving time, later actually proposed in 1907. While an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin anonymously published a letter in 1784 suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by arising earlier to use morning sunlight.
- In the 1920s an English cartoonist imagined a very laughable thing for that time: a hotel for cars. He drew a multi-story car park.
- The second episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, which debuted in 1969, featured a skit entitled "The Mouse Problem" (meant to satirize contemporary media exposés on homosexuality), which depicted a cultural phenomenon eerily similar to modern furry fandom (which did not become widespread until the 1980s, over a decade after the skit was first aired)
- The comedy film "Americathon", released in 1979 and set in the United States of 1998, predicted a number of trends and events that would eventually unfold in the near future, including an American debt crisis, Chinese capitalism, the fall of the Soviet Union, terrorism aimed at the civilian population, a presidential sex scandal, corporate takeover of the government, and the popularity of reality shows.
- In January 2001, a satirical news article in The Onion, entitled "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over" had newly elected President George Bush vowing to "develop new and expensive weapons technologies" and to "engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years." Furthermore he would "bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession." However, the article predicted the "deregulation of ... industries, and the defunding of ... social-service programs," which turned out to be erroneous, as the Administration dramatically increased such spending, including under a trillion dollar prescription drug program.
- In 1975, the first episode of Saturday Night Live included an ad for a triple blade razor called the Triple-Trac; in 2001, Gillette introduced the Mach3. In 2004, The Onion satirized Shick and Gillette's marketing of ever-increasingly multi-blade razors with a mock article proclaiming Gillette will now introduce a five-blade razor. In 2006, Gillette released the Gillette Fusion, a five-blade razor.
- ^ Robert C. Elliott, Satire, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica 2004
- ^ Northrop Frye, literary critic, quoted in: Elliott, satire
- ^ a b c Theodore D. Kharpertian, Thomas Pynchon and Postmodern American Satire25-7, in Kharpertian A hand to turn the time: the Menippean satires of Thomas Pynchon
- ^ Branham (1997) xxiv
- ^ The Renaissance confusion of the two origins encouraged a satire more aggressive than that of its Roman forebearers, B.L. Ullman "Satura and Satire" Classical Philology 8:2
- ^ Robert C. Elliott, The nature of satire, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Satire", 2004
- ^ a b Harold Rosenberg (1960) Community, Values, Comedy in Commentary, Volume 30 published by the American Jewish Committee155
- the oldest form of social study is comedy... If the comedian, from Aristophanes to Joyce, does not solve sociology's problem of "the participant observer," he does demonstrate his objectivity by capturing behavior in its most intimate aspects yet in its widest typicality. Comic irony sets whole cultures side by side in a multiple exposure (e.g., Don Quixote, Ulysses), causing valuation to spring out of the recital of facts alone, in contrast to the hidden editorializing of tongue-in-cheek ideologists.
- ^ Babcock, Barbara A. (1984) Arrange Me Into Disorder: Fragments and Reflections on Ritual Clowning in MacAloon (ed.) Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle. Also collected in Grimes, Ronald L. (1996) Readings in ritual studies5
- Harold Rosenberg has asserted that sociology needs to bring comedy into the foreground, including "an awareness of the comedy of sociology with its disguises," and, like Burke and Duncan, he has argued that comedy provides "the radical effect of self- knowledge which the anthropological bias excludes.
- ^ Vine Deloria, Jr. (1969) Custer Died For Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto chapter Indian humor, 146 as quoted in Allan J. Ryan The trickster shift: humour and irony in contemporary native art p.9
- Irony and satire provide much keener insights into a group's collective psyche and values than do years of [conventional] research.
- ^ Jo Coppola (1958) The Realist, Issue 1, quotation:
- Good comedy is social criticism—although you might find that hard to believe if all you ever saw were some of the so-called clowns of videoland.... Comedy is dying today because criticism is on its deathbed ... because telecasters, frightened by the threats and pressure of sponsors, blacklists and viewers, helped introduce conformity to this age... In such a climate, comedy cannot flourish. For comedy is, after all, a look at ourselves, not as we pretend to be when we look in the mirror of our imagination, but as we really are. Look at the comedy of any age and you will know volumes about that period and its people which neither historian nor anthropologist can tell you.
- ^ Andreas Willi (2003) The Languages of Aristophanes: Aspects of Linguistic Variation in Classical Attic Greek, Oxford University Press, pp.1-2
- ^ Ehrenberg, Victor (1962) The people of Aristophanes: a sociology of old Attic comedy39
- ^ Yatsko V. Russian folk funny stories
- ^ a b Fo (1990) p.9 quotation:
- Nella storia del teatro si ritrova sempre questo conflitto in cui si scontrano impegno e disimpegno ... grottesco, satirico e lazzo con sfottò. E spesso vince lo sfotto. tanto amato dal potere. Quando si dice che il potere ama la satira
- ^ Max Eastman (1936) Enjoyment of Laughter IV "Degrees of Biting" pp.236-43
- ^ Dario Fo and Jennifer Lorch Dario Fo, p.128 quotation:
- In other writings Fo makes an important distinction between sfottò and satire.
- ^ a b c Fo (1990) pp.2-3
- ... Una caricatura che, è ovvio, risulta del tutto bonaria, del tutto epidermica, che indica, come dicevo prima, soltanto la parte più esteriore del loro carattere, i tic la cui messa in risalto non lede assolutamente l'operato, l'ideologia, la morale e la dimensione culturale di questi personaggi. ... ricordando che i politici provano un enorme piacere nel sentirsi presi in giro; è quasi un premio che si elargisce loro, nel momento stesso in cui li si sceglie per essere sottoposti alla caricatura, a quella caricatura. ... Di fatto questa è una forma di comicità che non si può chiamare satira, ma solo sfottò. ... Pensa quanti pretesti satirici si offrirebbero se solo quei comici del "Biberon" volessero prendere in esame il modo in cui questi personaggi gestiscono il potere e lo mantengono, o si decidessero a gettare l'occhio sulle vere magagne di questa gente, le loro violenze più o meno mascherate, le loro arroganze e soprattutto le loro ipocrisie. ...un teatro cabaret capostipite: il Bagaglino, un teatro romano che, già vent'anni fa, si metteva in una bella chiave politica dichiaratamente di estrema destra, destra spudoratamente reazionaria, scopertamente fascista. Nelle pieghe del gruppo del Bagaglino e del suo lavoro c'era sempre la caricatura feroce dell'operaio, del sindacalista, del comunista, dell'uomo di sinistra, e una caricatura bonacciona invece, e ammiccante, accattivante, degli uomini e della cultura al potere
- ^ a b José Luís Blas Arroyo, Mónica Velando Casanova Discurso y sociedad: contribuciones al estudio de la lengua en ..., Volume 1303-4 quoting Fo (1990):
- L'ironia fatta sui tic, sulla caricatura dei connotati più o meno grotteschi dei politici presi di mira, dei loro eventuali difetti fisici, della loro particolare pronuncia, dei loro vezzi, del loro modo di vestire, del loro modo di camminare, delle frasi tipiche che vanno ripetendo. ... [lo sfottò è] una chiave buffonesca molto antica, che viene di lontano, quella di giocherellare con gli attributi esteriori e non toccare mai il problema di fondo di una critica seria che è l'analisi messa in grottesco del comportamento, la valutazione ironica della posizione, dell'ideologia del personaggio.
- ^ Morson, Gary Saul (1988) Boundaries of Genre114 quotation:
- second, that parodies can be, as Bakhtin observes, "shallow" as well as "deep" (Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 160), which is to say, directed at superficial as well as fundamental faults of the original. [...] the distinction between shallow and deep [...] [is] helpful in understanding the complex ways in which parodies are used. For instance, shallow parody is sometimes used to pay an author an indirect compliment. The opposite of damning with faint praise, this parody with faint criticism may be designed to show that no more fundamental criticism could be made.
- ^ Daniele Luttazzi (2005) Matrix quote:
- Dario Fo disse a Satyricon:-La satira vera si vede dalla reazione che suscita.
- ^ Daniele Luttazzi (2003) State a casa a fare i compiti, interview by Federica Fracassi and Jacopo Guerriero in Nazione Indiana, October 2003 quote:
- Lo sfottò è reazionario. Non cambia le carte in tavola, anzi, rende simpatica la persona presa di mira. La Russa, oggi, è quel personaggio simpatico, con la voce cavernosa, il doppiatore dei Simpson di cui Fiorello fa l’imitazione. Nessuno ricorda più il La Russa picchiatore fascista. Nessuno ricorda gli atti fascisti e reazionari di questo governo in televisione.
- ^ Kremer, S. Lillian (2003)Holocaust Literature: Agosín to Lentin100
- ^ Lipman, Steve (1991) Laughter in hell: the use of humour during the Holocaust, Northvale, N.J:J Aronson Inc., p.40
- ^ a b c d Clark (1991) 116-8 quotation:
- ...religion, politics, and sexuality are the primary stuff of literary satire. Among these sacret targets, matters costive and defecatory play an important part. ... from the earliest times, satirists have utilized scatological and bathroom humor. Aristophanes, always livid and nearly scandalous in his religious, political, and sexual references...
- ^ Clark, John R. and Motto, Anna Lydia (1973) Satire--that blasted art20
- ^ Clark, John R. and Motto, Anna Lydia (1980) Menippeans & Their Satire: Concerning Monstrous Leamed Old Dogs and Hippocentaurs, in Scholia satyrica, Volume 6, 3/4, 1980 p.45 quotation:
- [Chapple's book Soviet satire of the twenties]...classifying the very topics his satirists satirized: housing, food, and fuel supplies, poverty, inflation, "hooliganism," public services, religion, stereotypes of nationals (the Englishman, German, &c), &c. Yet the truth of the matter is that no satirist worth his salt (Petronius, Chaucer, Rabelais, Swift, Leskov, Grass) ever avoids man's habits and living standards, or scants those delicate desiderata: religion, politics, and sex.
- ^ a b Hodgart (2009) ch 2 The topics of satire: politics 33
- The most pressing of the problems that face us when we close the book or leave the theatre are ultimately political ones; and so politics is the pre-eminent topic of satire. ...to some defree public affairs vex every man, if he pays taxes, does military service or even objects to the way his neighbour is behaving. There is no escape from politics where more than a dozen people are living together. There is an essential connection between satire and politics in the widest sense: satire is not only the commonest form of political literature, but, insofar as it tries to influence public behavious, it is the most political part of all literature.
- ^ Hodgart (2009) 39
- ^ a b c Wilson (2002) 14-5, 20 and notes 25 (p.308), 32 (p.309)
- ^ a b Anspaugh, Kelly (1994) 'Bung Goes the Enemay': Wyndham Lewis and the Uses of Disgust. in Mattoid (ISSN 0314-5913) issue 48.3, pp.21-29. As quoted in Wilson (2002):
- The turd is the ultimate dead object.
- ^ Edward Alan Bloom, Lillian D. Bloom (1979) Satire's persuasive voice
- ^ Nicoll, Allardyce (1951) British drama: an historical survey from the beginnings to the present time179
- ^ Hodgart (2009) 189
- ^ Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, volume I, 1973, pp.184-193
- ^ Helck, Die Lehre des DwA-xtjj, Wiesbaden, 1970
- ^ Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Hieratic Texts - Series I: Literary Texts of the New Kingdom, Part I, Leipzig 1911
- ^ a b Sutton, D. F., Ancient Comedy: The War of the Generations (New York, 1993), p.56.
- ^ Political and social satires of Aristophanes in: Alfred Bates (ed.), The Drama, Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 2.,London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 55-59.
- ^ E. Atkinson Curbing the Comedians: Cleon versus Aristophanes and Syracosius' Decree The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 42, No. 1 (1992), pp. 56-64
- ^ Aristophanes: the Michael Moore of his Day by John Louis Anderson
- ^ a b Wilson (2002) p.17
- ^ Cuddon, Dictionary of Literary Terms, Oxford 1998, "satire"
- ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976). The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature. Brill Publishers. p. 32. ISBN9004043926
- ^ Ulrich Marzolph, Richard van Leeuwen, Hassan Wassouf (2004). The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 97–8. ISBN1576072045
- ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976). The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature. Brill Publishers. pp. 77–8. ISBN9004043926
- ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976). The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature. Brill Publishers. p. 70. ISBN9004043926
- ^ Webber, Edwin J. (January 1958). "Comedy as Satire in Hispano-Arabic Spain". Hispanic Review (University of Pennsylvania Press) 26 (1): 1–11. doi:2307/470561. JSTOR470561
- ^ Davenport, A., ed: The Poems of Joseph Hall, Liverpool University Press, 1969:"...Hall's Virgidemiae was a new departure in that the true Juvenalian mode of satire was being attempted for the first time, and successfully, in English."
- ^ The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the censors of the press, issued Orders to the Stationers' Company on June 1st and 4th, 1599, prohibiting the further printing of satires - the so-called 'Bishop's Ban'. Davenport, A: The Poems of Joseph Hall, Liverpool University Press, 1969.
- ^ "The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century" Vol. 3 pp. 435
- ^ http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/drydendiscourse2.html, ed. Jack Lynch
- ^ "What is Catch-22? And why does the book matter?". BBC. 2002-03-12.
- ^ Molly the Dog 2008
- ^ http://www.brianminer2008.com
- ^ Monday, Sep. 29, 1947 (1947-09-29). "Tain't Funny - ''Time''". Time.com. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
- ^ Melnik, Rachel. A picture is worth a thousand politicians, Cartoons catalyze social justice, McGill Tribune (2007-01-23), Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- ^ co.uk
- ^ com
- ^ com
- ^ Ng, David. "YouTube sensation Miranda seduces Broadway", Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2009
- ^ This Week, San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 2009
- ^ An interview with The Onion, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 25, 2007.
- ^ Leonard, James S.; Thomas A. Tenney and Thadious M. Davis (December 1992). Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. Duke University Press. pp. 224. ISBN9780822311744.
- ^ Shelley Fisher Fishin, Lighting out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
- ^ "'Hang your heads' Rudd tells Chaser boys". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- ^ A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640, Vol. III, ed. Edward Arber (London, 1875-94), p.677.
- ^ "Zuma claims R7m over Zapiro cartoon".
- ^ "Mail and Guardian interview with Democratic Alliance spokesperson Helen Zille". Retrieved August 2005.
- ^ "ZNews: Zapiro's puppet show".
- ^ "SABC pulls Zapiro doccie, again".
- ^ http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100510/1820159367.shtml
- ^ Glionna, John M. (2010-05-10). "Samsung doesn't find satirical spoof amusing". Los Angeles Times.
- ^ Paul Krassner (2003) Reality or satire, what’s the difference? New York Press, Volume 16, Issue 35, August 26, 2003
- ^ a b Daniele Luttazzi Lepidezze postribolari (2007, Feltrinelli, p.275) (Italian)
- ^ Benjamin Franklin, writing anonymously (1784-04-26). "Aux auteurs du Journal" (in French). Journal de Paris (117). Its first publication was in the journal's "Économie" section. The revised English version (retrieved on 2007-05-26) is commonly called "An Economical Project", a title that is not Franklin's; see A.O. Aldridge (1956). "Franklin's essay on daylight saving". American Literature (American Literature, Vol. 28, No. 1) 28 (1): 23–29. doi:2307/2922719. JSTOR2922719.
- ^ http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28784
- ^ http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930
- Branham, R Bracht and Kinney, Daniel (1997) Introduction to Petronius' Satyrica xxiv
- Clark, John R. (1991) The Modern Satiric Grotesque and its traditions, Lexington: U. of Kentucky P.
- Dario Fo (1990) Dialogo provocatorio sul comico, il tragico, la follia e la ragione, interview by Luigi Allegri, pp. 2, 9. Excerpt on Satira e sfottò. Methuen Publishing in London translated it as Provocative Dialogue on the Comic, the Tragic, Folly and Reason (1993)
- Elliott, Robert C. The nature of satire, in: Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Satire", 2004
- Frye, Northrop (1957) Anatomy of Criticism (In particular the discussion of the 4 "myths").
- Hodgart, Matthew and Brian Connery (2009)  Satire: Origins and Principles
- Wilson, R. Rawdon (2002) The hydra's tale: imagining disgust
- Lee, Jae Num. "Scatology in Continental Satirical Writings from Aristophanes to Rabelais" and "English Scatological Writings from Skelton to Pope." Swift and Scatological Satire. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1971. 7-22; 23-53.
- Jacob Bronowski & Bruce Mazlish, The Western Intellectual Tradition From Leonardo to Hegel, p. 252 (1960; as repub. in 1993 Barnes & Noble ed.).
- Theorizing Satire: A Bibliography, by Brian A. Connery, Oakland University
- Bloom, Edward A. . "Sacramentum Militiae: The Dynamics of Religious Satire." Studies in the Literary Imagination 5 (1972): 119-42.
- Leonard Feinberg The satirist
- David Worcester The Art of Satire
- Arthur Pollard (1970) Satire
Theories/Critical approaches to satire as a genre:
- Udo Kindermann, Satyra. Die Theorie der Satire im Mittellateinischen. Vorstudie zu einer Gattungsgeschichte. Nürnberg 1978.
- Emil Draitser. Techniques of Satire: The Case of Saltykov-Shchedrin. (Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994) ISBN 3110126249.
- Hammer, Stephanie. Satirizing the Satirist.
- Highet, Gilbert. Satire.
- Kernan, Alvin. The Cankered Muse
- Connery, Brian and Combe, Kirk eds. (1995). Theorizing Satire: Essays in Literary Criticism. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 212. ISBN0-312-12302-7.
The Plot of Satire.
- Seidel, Michael. Satiric Inheritance.
- Entopia: Revolution of the Ants (2008), by Rad Zdero