In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Comedic News

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Comedic News Comparisons to Serious Journalism
  • Comedic News as Journalism Critique
  • Comedic News and Learning About Political Issues
  • Comedic News and Political Knowledge
  • Comedic News and Political Participation
  • Comedic News and Attention to Political News
  • Comedic News and Evaluations of Politics
  • Comedic News and Attitudes Toward the News Media
  • Comedic News and Partisan Perceptions
  • Role of Comedic News in the Political System

Communication Comedic News
Julia Fox, Edo Steinberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0194


With the new millennium came a new source of political information–comedic news. Though it existed prior to the 21st century–indeed, its roots can be traced to 17th-century English country fairs–the genre came into its own during the 2004 presidential election, when young voters in particular began to rely on comedic news as their primary source of political information. The rise in popularity and influence of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its first spin-off, The Colbert Report, raised a number of concerns and consequently research questions for scholars to examine. How do comedic news shows compare to serious journalism? What questions and concerns do comedic news shows raise about serious journalism? Can comedic news shows serve as a gateway to greater attention to serious news? How is comedic news viewership related to attention to politics, political knowledge, and learning about politics? Does viewing comedic news influence attitudes toward politics and the media, particularly cynicism, and does partisanship moderate these effects? Is there a relationship between viewing and political participation? More broadly, what is the role of comedic news in the political system? This bibliography provides a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, collection of mostly empirical studies addressing these research questions that uphold standards of good social science. For example, experiments should include multiple messages to instantiate study conditions and random assignment to conditions. Thus this bibliography should be particularly useful for those interested in scientific evidence about the influence of these shows. Empirical studies in this emerging area come primarily from political science and communication and thus draw on a number of different theories, and not all studies in this area include explicit theoretical underpinnings. While there is no common theoretical thread running throughout the studies included here, perhaps as this literature matures we will see more, and more common, theoretical grounding to studies of comedic news. In the meantime, although The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its first and second spin-offs, The Colbert Report and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, are no longer running, The Daily Show with its new host, Trevor Noah, is, as are new shows by two former Daily Show reporters, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, giving viewers plenty more comedic news to enjoy and scholars more material to explore as this emerging genre and related field of study evolve.

General Overviews

Before studying comedic news, one should start with the basic definitions of satire and its unique role and methods. These are reviewed thoroughly in Caufield 2008. Meanwhile, Lichter, et al. 2015 describes the development of the late night comedy landscape. Holbert 2013 surveys empirical studies of satire, including some going back decades, but focuses on the most recent research about late night entertainment. Compton 2011, on the other hand, specifically examines research on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Graber 2008 is a concluding chapter in an anthology. It summarizes the diverse findings in the other articles in the book, many of which are included in this bibliography (see Baumgartner and Morris 2008 under Anthologies). Holbert 2016 offers both a good overview of previous research and a theoretical framework for future studies.

  • Caufield, R. P. 2008. The influence of “infoenterpropagainment”: Exploring the power of political satire as a distinct form of political humor. In Laughing matters: Humor and American politics in the media age. Edited by J. C. Baumgartner and J. S. Morris, 3–20. New York: Routledge.

    This essay argues that political satire has unique characteristics, such as aggression, play, laughter, judgment, and need for prior knowledge in order to understand its critiques. Caufield also lays out various techniques through which satire attacks society’s ills.

  • Compton, J. 2011. Introduction: Surveying scholarship on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. In The Stewart/Colbert effect: Essays on the real impacts of fake news. Edited by A. Amarasingam, 9–23. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

    In this introductory chapter, Compton reviews a number of studies about comedic news; most either examine effects of viewing on political knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviors, or make comparisons of the content or audiences of these shows to other programming, such as traditional television news shows or other late night programs.

  • Graber, D. 2008. Conclusion: Why political humor is serious business. In Laughing matters: Humor and American politics in the media age. Edited by J. C. Baumgartner and J. S. Morris, 333–341. New York: Routledge.

    This concluding chapter in an anthology summarizes findings about the effects of political humor on audiences. It focuses on what viewers learn from this genre. It also discusses important challenges in humor effects research.

  • Holbert, R. L. 2013. Developing a normative approach to political satire: An empirical perspective. International Journal of Communication 7:305–323.

    This article provides an excellent overview of a number of empirical studies on comedic news, many of which are included in this annotated bibliography. Holbert provides a normative assessment of the findings and designs of studies effects on persuasion and understanding and also reviews examinations of the content of these programs.

  • Holbert, R. L. 2016. Entertainment television and political campaigns: The Political Satire Appropriateness (PSA) model. ?In Praeger handbook of political campaigning in the United States. Vol. 1. Edited by W. L. Benoit, 171–190. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

    This theoretical chapter draws on previous research to propose The Political Satire Appropriateness model predicting which topics will be addressed by satirists based on the satirists’ and audience’s perceived threat to political stability and the presence of folly, vice, or sin. The model also predicts satire’s severity and effectiveness.

  • Lichter, S. R., J. M. Baumgartner, and J. S. Morris. 2015. Politics is a joke! How TV comedians are remaking political life. Boulder, CO: Westview.

    This book reports analysis of more than 100,000 political jokes, most made on late night television shows and not comedic news programs. The introductory chapter provides a brief history of political humor through recent development of comedic news shows, particularly The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

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