Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Broadcast and Digital Journalism
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Film and Media Studies | Other Film and Media Studies | Television | Visual Studies
Political satire is an implied freedom enumerated in the first amendment of the Constitution. As a form of political speech, it falls under the category of the most protected form of expression. Now that I’ve got your attention, I can go ahead with the rest of my project. This is a journalistic study of the people who used their freedom of speech to openly criticize the government. More specifically, it’s about the people who openly criticized the government and then became famous for it. Of course, there’s many ways to criticize, many platforms, many audiences, many influences as well.
What my project sets out to do is to sort out the various aspects of American political satire; dividing this form of humor into six subsets; famous quotes, the early 20th century, stand-up comedy, television, music and the web. I carry this out through a series of TV packages, emulating a news reporter who does a series of enterprise stories on the same subject. Creating these arbitrary subdivisions allowed me to classify and organize my project so that it could come across as a cogent argument. This made more sense to me than doing a series of stories on my favorite aspects of political satire, or even worse, a 40-page paper. Clearly defining my focus was instrumental in making this project palatable to put together, and hopefully enjoyable for the viewer.
This greater focus came with a price. The constant process of narrowing down and streamlining led to much of America’s satirical content being left out of the project. With this in mind, I hope the satire neophyte viewing this project does not come away with the impression that the Smothers Brothers, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert were the only TV satirists. I do hope newcomers to satire choose to view my project as an introduction to the genre of humor, as a sort of conversation starter. Throughout my time at Newhouse I’ve made a concerted effort to treat each of my journalism projects as learning experiences, to the viewer and me. I want people to come away from this capstone project with a greater understanding of a subject I’ve come to love. A subject that has influenced every word you’re about to hear, and every image you’re about to see.
Looking back on this project I’m pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, both on the research side and the technical side. With regards to the former, I learned a lot of things about political satire that I didn’t know before; and I love political satire. As for the latter, the six mini-projects turned into a sort of editorial etude. Each of them ended up emphasizing a certain skill: sound-mixing for the musical satire project, parallel writing structure for the TV piece, and logging tape for the great quotes piece to name a few.
In the end this project is a worthy exemplification of my lifelong infatuation with political satire. I’m grateful to have been able to engage in a project that I enjoyed. It was laborious, informative, stressful and fulfilling at the same time. A final benefit is this: regardless of how difficult the project became, I was always working with comedic material. In other words, no matter how angry the project may have made me, it also always found a way to make me laugh. I sincerely hope you feel the same having viewed my project.
Contino, Michael, "American Political Satire: The 20th Century Onward" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 203.
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