The University of Rhode Island Honors Program continued the 2015 Fall Colloquium series Tuesday evening with “Humor in Politics,” given by comedian and entertainer John Fugelsang.
Fugelsang covered the topics of political comedy and satire and is the fourth program in this fall’s series entitled “The Power of Humor.” His program covered political humor and the impact it can have in important political times, such as election seasons.
Fugelsang talked about the importance of finesse and precision in political humor. He explained how it is easy to make jokes about the way politicians look or live their lives. However, in order to make funny and poignant jokes, the aim needs to be at their policies and political stances.
“Digs are fine,” Fugelsang said. “I’ll tell jokes about Donald Trump, but I have to have something more substantive to follow it up with.”
Also a host of the daily talk show “Tell Me Everything” on SiriusXM channel 121, Fugelsang is no stranger to the world of political commentary. He has been a regular on “The Stephanie Miller Show” and guest on many other political talk shows, and has been involved in the world of political humor and satire for many years. Since an early age, Fugelsang has been interested in comedy and a performance by late comedian George Carlin inspired him to push his interests in a different direction.
“I’d always thought about doing comedy in my teen years and in college,” Fugelsang said. “I was a theatre major, so I was already comfortable being on stage. But it wasn’t until I saw Carlin live for the first time that I knew I wanted to try to challenge authority with jokes.”
Political humor, according to Fugelsang, requires a constant, up-to-date knowledge of what is happening politically across the spectrum. Different news networks can often present their news from different angles, which can lead to confusion. Fugelsang stressed the importance of taking news from many different sources in order to understand as much as possible.
“I think that everybody has to absorb news from a variety of sources,” Fugelsang said. “Lately, I get most of my news from Twitter. I search through hashtags to see what people are saying about an issue from all sides. I think that it doesn’t matter where you get the news from, as long as you get it from a variety of different sources.”
The rise of political comedy in mainstream media is something that Fugelsang touched on in the colloquium. Comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey are all “household names” and are known for political comedy and satire, which may not be the “safest” form of comedy.
“When you work in a commercial medium, if you get too political it can make it harder to get gigs, but that’s the risk you always run as an artist,” Fugelsang said. “You have to walk the line between saying what you want to say, and being professionally prudent.”
Fugelsang, in addition to being a comedian and political satirist, is an actor and author. He has appeared on many TV shows, including working as the host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” following Bob Saget’s departure. He has just finished work on a documentary about the American Dream, and is currently in the process of writing a book. More information about him can be found at http://blog2.johnfugelsang.com/.
The Honors Colloquium’s next event is entitled “Science of Laughter,” which will take place on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. in Edwards Auditorium.