Does humor really lead to Political Knowledge

According to this week’s article, Xenos and Becker believe that people’s attentiveness to political issues increase by exposing to comedy programs, especially to audience who are not political engaged. But no consistent association was found between political knowledge and exposure to comedy programs. In the first experiment, it is not surprising to find respondents exposed to comedy clips have higher attentiveness to relevant political issues compared with their counterparts since the easy and humorous atmosphere in comedy programs reduces the cost of learning about political issues. The second experiment reveals an unexpected result that the number of items people with high political interest correctly recalled is decreasing with comedy program is involved. The founding about people with low political interest is consistent with the first experiment.

I watched two Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Oct. 5th and Oct. 6th). I have to confess that I found Jon’s speech is brilliant and funny even to me, who totally not engaged in political issues. The show on Oct. 6th talked about mid-term malaise and special reporter Mandvi visited the South and North part of Delaware where arouse controversial political opinions. In the last few minutes of this show, Philip Dray came up and talked about his new book on American labor which I found boring. In the Oct. 5th show, Jon briefly talked about some funny stories about Guatemala and military green events in Pakistan. Then Lewis Black gave covered education crisis America is facing. He made wonderful speech in very humorous tone. In the end, Bruce Willis showed up and promoting his new movie.

Actually during watching the Daily Show, I kept Google some political events which had been mentioned in the show and I felt motivated to know more about these issues than ever but it is only a short-term experience. In the searching process, I did not pursue deep knowledge about political issues just information enough for me to understand what Jon mentioned in the show. Since I have low political interest, I probably would never want to dig deep about politics. When browsing news after the Daily Show, I may pay a little more attention to political issues mentioned in the show which I may never do before but just looked at the headline or at most scan the first paragraph. I was not motivated enough to learn relevant information about political issues.  I guess my results are consistent with majority of Xenos and Becker’s respondents.


October 7, 2010. Uncategorized.


  1. aflaten replied:

    I think it’s interesting that we can see a possible effect between watching a show on a computer versus watching it on the television. As you pointed out, if a topic is being discussed that the viewer has limited knowledge about, it’s a simple matter of opening a new tab and going to Wikipedia or Google to find some information. When you’re on the couch and the laptop or smartphone isn’t nearby, your overall motivation for learning has to be stronger to overcome the lack of convenience.

    Or at least that’s what my armchair theorizing comes up with. I suppose Xenos and Becker would argue with me, but they essentially handed their subjects computers after they finished watching whichever news program type they were assigned and ordered them to browse. Without such implicit direction, I wonder how motivated people generally tend to be to educate themselves on matters they aren’t explicitly interested in.

    Given the results of my own experience, plus yours and some of the other of class blogs I’ve read, I’d say not very motivated at all.

  2. ltn0913 replied:

    I watched the same two episodes,and the North and South part of Delaware is so funny. I have low political interest too, as you said “I probably would never want to dig deep about politics.” I think the Daily Show did help us to pay a little more attention to political news. It’s not as boring as read “hard news”. We can have fun watching it, and then to look for the events mentioned in the show to gain some knowledge.

  3. chentingchen replied:

    I agree with you that people would not dig deeper in politics since they have low political interests. People with lower engagement with political issues may be attracted by some political talk show because it is interesting and hilarious. However, I do not think the political interest can really be built. People may be able to gain some knowledge from “soft news.” But I think it can only create a ephemeral attention. After all, we still need certain knowledge to understand the issue. Just like Alan said that there will be many differences between watching political show on TV or on computer. It is hard for audience with little political knowledge to absorve all the information in the show period.

  4. Carol replied:

    I will say that the humor cannot really make me to be more interested and pay more attention to politics; I think it is because I was “harassed” by political talk shows and news in Taiwan for a very long time so that I can ignore it naturally even without noticing it. In Taiwan, there is a show which broadcast in “live” everyday to make a parody of politicians. It is a very popular show. A lot of my friends love it; however, I just found it very boring. Therefore, I will say I don’t think humor can lead people to care about political issues.

  5. Mindy McAdams replied:

    It’s not clear to me whether you used Google News after you watched the two episodes of The Daily Show. I guess this means you did do it: “When browsing news after the Daily Show, I may pay a little more attention to political issues mentioned in the show which I may never do before but just looked at the headline or at most scan the first paragraph.” But it was hard to be sure.

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