The University of Colorado’s Distinguished Speakers Board hosted “The State of Satire” talk on Wednesday night in Macky Auditorium. The panel included four comedy professionals who discussed satire in the media in general, and with regard to specific news stories.
The guests included Scott Dikkers, the founding editor of The Onion, Kevin Avery, staff writer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” Aasif Mandvi, an actor and former correspondent on “The Daily Show,” and Megan Amram, who has written for “Silicon Valley” and “Parks and Recreation.”
Dikkers mediated the discussion and introduced the other guests.
“It’s great to be here in Boulder,” Dikkers said. “Let’s get some enthusiasm for our hometown, land of marijuana and honey.”
To get the ball rolling, Dikkers asked the panelists general questions about satire and comedy.
“To me, satire is exploding something you see in the world,” Amram said.
Mandvi took a different stance on the topic.
“It sort of feels like the intersection between ‘I’m mad as hell, but I also want you to really like me,’” Mandvi said. “And that means it’s comedy.”
Dikkers asked questions about what inspired the panelists to do comedy and why comedy matters.
“I think the one thing where it effects us is it gets people talking,” Avery said. “I don’t necessarily believe we’re doing something that’s changing everything and policy is changing because of us; I just think that people are talking.”
Dikkers asked the panelists to share an instance when they had received negative feedback or when they got in trouble for going too far.
“At the Republican convention, there were a bunch of military police standing there with armed weapons,” Mandvi said. “And I went up to them and sort of did an Andy Griffith joke [and] tried to tickle them.”
Elements of seriousness crept into the otherwise humorous evening when the panelists discussed how they address tragedies, like mass shootings, through their comedy.
“It was less about finding comedy in the actual tragedy of what had happened because you can’t find comedy in children being killed,” said Mandvi. “But you can find it in the reaction of us culturally and the people in power because those are the people you want to make fun of.”
The event took a political turn when panelists discussed the differences in reactions from liberals and conservatives to their work.
“Right-wingers are notoriously big laughers,” Avery said. “And it’s liberals who get very, ‘I don’t know if we’re able to laugh at that, I’m just going to sit here in my chair, is this okay?’ Right-wingers are excited and they’ll come up to you afterwards and say, ‘I love that shit you did. I’ll kill you, but I love that shit.’”
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