AI: Parody vs. Satire

parody: a humorous imitation, often used to expose, denounce or deride.

satire: the use of irony, sarcasm and ridicule to expose, denounce or deride.

I’m a fan of the Stewart/Colbert hour. They do almost the same thing, but with a twist. John Stewart makes fun of the news and the people that read the news directly. He points out their faults and follies directly. His angle is nearly pure satire.

Colbert makes fun of news agencies (read Fox) by pretending to represent one of them and playing it straight most of the time. He exposes their flaws through exaggeration and mimicry. This is nearly pure parody.

Which do you think is a more effective means of denouncement? Satire or Parody? Which do you prefer?

N.B. I am aware that parody is, in fact, a subset of satire. Let’s treat them as separate for this argument.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. Not to be argumentative, but I’d suggest that you actually have your definitions reversed. Satire seeks to point out the flaws in a position by carrying that position to its logical extremes in a humorous way, thereby using humor to make the position being critiqued seem ridiculous and worthy of derision. The most classic example of pure satire is Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. As such, it seems that the Colbert Report is much more satire than it is parody. Similarly, if one considers that Space Balls is a parody of Star Wars, it seems that the Daily Show is much closer to a parody of conventional news program than it is to pure satire – especially with their emphasis on fictional titles for their “correspondents” like “Senior Black Correspondent” or “Senior British Correspondent”.

    Pedantics aside, I’d say that satire and parody serve different audiences. Satire is by its very nature more controversial than parody, so while it is very effective in poking holes in a position it can also tend to muddy the waters. Parody is often much more widely acceptible, but it comes at the cost of weakening your overall premise with silliness. (Not that that’s a terrible thing.)

    So here I am, saying satire and parody have equal import? Huh. How Canadian of me.

  2. Parody runs into Poe’s law. I know some conservatives who think Colbert’s funny, because they believe what he is saying on face value.

  3. Ryan-

    I happen to think that you have it the right way around. It’s a subtle difference, but yes.

    I agree with wundergeek that Stewart’s show is a parody of a news program, but I submit that he is speaking in his own voice and therefore it’s a satirical take. So if we are splitting these into categories, I’ll place The Daily Show in satire. Colbert, on the other hand, is playing a character, and that, to me, is pure parody. {Or not, according to the conservatives that Holytape mentioned. ha!}

  4. I think Wundergeek was thinking about the guest characters on John Stuart’s show. I agree that they are often parody bits. But I find John Stuart himself to be just straight up making fun of people most of the time.

  5. Parody gives ’em an out as Holytape correctly points out, so from me it’s satire FTW.

    I have no idea if it’s actually more effective or not, but I want them to know that the crunching noise the clown shoe makes when it smashes down on their offensive, illogical and unevidenced ideas was intended to be heard with relish. Sure, it might take a bit of scrubbing to get all the guts and chitin off afterwards, but that’s a small price to pay.

  6. I think a good parody can stick in a way that satire has difficulty with. Glen Beck at the chalkboard, however ridiculous it was in the first place, is completely laughable after. I think parody can carry an image forward that way, while satire’s more reactionary. I think it is easier to just embrace the laughter when you’re the subject of parody, though. I’m really not sure which I think is more effective now, and I’ve been chewing this over all day, and I still am… hmmm.

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