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Trump's a Joke: How Satire Saved the Day

In a new poll, nearly 40% of respondents said the thought of a Biden-Trump match-up in 2024 made them feel exhausted, and according to politics and satire expert Dr. Sophia A. McClennen, the only way to cure this overwhelming political fatigue is through comedy, specifically satire.

We have a former president who’s under indictment for obstruction and mishandling classified documents after his defeat, a violation of the Espionage Act.

That certainly isn’t funny.

That same former president also is under indictment for hush money paid to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, and is the subject of investigations relating to the Jan. 6, 2020 attack on the Capitol and efforts to rig the Georgia election results.

None of that is funny either.

But Dr. McClennen believes that comedy, especially satire, can provide the antidote for the depression, anxiety, and frustration that we feel in having to pay attention to the politicians and issues that exhaust us.

A Harvard and Duke University alum and founding director of Penn State's Center for Global Studies, she is the author of a new book, “Trump Was a Joke: How Satire Made Sense of a President Who Didn’t”.

Here are some questions we discussed with Dr. McClennen:

1. For many Americans, the Trump presidency and its aftermath have been exhausting and for many, emotionally draining. How does political fatigue like that endanger our democracy?

2. What are some ways satire helps to improve civic engagement and political knowledge, and creates better, more informed citizens?

3. Examples?

4. Why are people more likely to remember and share information that is delivered to them with humor?

5. How are social movements that use satire in their tactics more likely to succeed?

6. Common misconceptions about satire: that it’s bad for democracy, that it undermines important institutions, that it’s only aim is to distract and entertain?

7. Tell us about your book. Can it help keep us sane?

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