Friday, October 26, 2012

Comedy Done Official

It’s another election year. What exactly does that mean for the citizens of the United States? Instead of tempting ads promoting fresh Toppers sticks, you’ve been changing the channel, possibly even pressing the mute button on the President of the United States for the past three months. It also means, shows like Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show have an excellent new array of material to work with. The article I choose to analyze on the Official Style fits right in with this. My text, “Political Comedy Shows and Knowledge About Primary Campaigns: The Moderating Effects of Age and Education,” translation: How Comedy Shows are Changing What People Think About Politics and Who is Learning the Most, uses the Official Style to make the argument that shows dealing with comedy and politics, like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, have a political impact on viewers.

I chose this article, because I love satire in writing. I love comedy shows and cunning jokes. I was surprised when I searched Saturday Night Live in a scholarly journal, and actual results came up. This show and others like it deal with fun writing, and the Official Style seems so serious. I was curious, so I did a Readability Test of an SNL script. I tested the opening monologue of an Obama, Romney debate. The writing grade level was 7.9. Xiaoxia Cao, the author of “Political Comedy Shows and Knowledge About Primary Campaigns”, wrote it at a 19.9 grade level. Why is a subject like this being discussed in a style like that?


These shows don’t have any other purpose than to be funny. They are making fun of debates, and speeches written in the official style. I find it ironic that a piece like this, written so officially, dealing with research and interviews would be about a group of entertainers making fun of an exact society that has created the Official Style. I also think it’s funny that a paper written to be seen by only certain groups of people is analyzing information available to everybody. The paper is very encouraging of political comedy shows being accessible to anyone, but the journal in which it was written is only accessible to a small group of people.

Xiaoxia Cao uses different writing strategies. to make the article sound more formal. In this sentence she uses prepositional phrases. “In a similar vein, Brewer and Marquardt (2007) found that The Daily Show offered a substantial amount of coverage on public affairs even in a nonelection year.” She also uses subordination. “Although political comedy shows have the potential to inform viewers, they may not exert the same impact across different subgroups of audience members.” I found infinitive phrases in throughout the text as well. “To answer this question, I examine how age, race, gender, education, and income are related to watching political comedy shows.”

The article, like others written in the Official Style, is very repetitive. The number of times Cao makes the same argument is unnecessary. “...political comedy shows are more likely to present political humor in an information-rich format and to tackle political issues.” “...allow political comedy shows to spend more time dealing with political issues and events” “In short, the formats of political comedy shows should enable them to offer more political information” These three sentences all making the same argument come one after another spread out in just two paragraphs.

One of Cao’s main arguments is the importance that anybody can watch political comedy shows. You don’t have to be an expert on world news to get a laugh from Seth Meyers. However, the paper in which Cao is saying this can only be seen by scholars. Mass Communication and Society, the journal in which this article was written can only be read by professors, students, and librarians. It’s ironic that a journal so inaccessible is writing about the importance of accessibility to all.
The Official Style is commonly used. It can be found in legal documents, research papers, advertisements, and many other forms of writing. Shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show serve the purpose to make people laugh. They make fun of speeches written by candidates using the Official Style and advertisements trying to trick you with fancy wording to buy the product. I find it ironic that an article like this would be written on a subject like that , not only because the serious tone given to something meant to be a laugh, but also, the stress the text puts on the importance of reaching everybody when it can be seen by few. I’m not an expert on the Official Style and some people could probably argue that this blog post is too official, but after reading this “Political Comedy and Knowledge About Primary Campaigns,” I can say, comedy television and the Official Style do not go well together.

-Melissa Koch


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