This research traces transformations in parody and satire in the ongoing symbiotic relationship between comedy and politics in order to entertain, inform, and provide a voice for the American people within the political system of the 20th century. This thesis juxtaposes political comedians Finley Peter Dunne, Will Rogers, and Mort Sahl, and the programs, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Laugh-In, and Saturday Night Live, with the presidents that were active during these years: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Collectively, the analysis of these comedians and programs and their political rhetoric reveal the ways in which political-comedic relations have transformed from the late nineteenth to the twenty-first century. In particular, across the twentieth century, there developed an (occasionally tumultuous) bond between comedy and politics in the 20th century. This relationship reflected the changes in American society, ultimately elevating comedy to a relevant and effective conduit between the American people and their government leaders.
Date of publication
Haynie, Robin, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Democracy: Comedy and Politics in the Twentieth Century" (2015). History Theses. Paper 6.