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Satirical News in Traditional Media and Online

A Short Introduction to Satire

According to The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, satire is defined as:

A literary genre or mode that uses irony, wit, and sometimes sarcasm to expose humanity’s vices and foibles. Through clever criticism, satirists debunk and deflate their targets, whether persons, groups, ideas, or institutions. Unlike comedy, which is primarily geared toward amusement and entertainment, satire generally has a moral purpose: to provoke a response to correctable human failings, ideally some kind of reform. Predominantly satirical forms include the burlesque, comedy of manners, fabliau, mock heroic, parody, picaresque narrative, and political cartoon.

In other words, satire is a way for writers, artists, and performers to critique the societies in which they live. It often creates characters based on real people and puts them into situations that exaggerate the behavior that the satirist wishes to expose. Speaking specifically of TV in 2009, several researchers argued that "the sad irony [is] that contemporary satire TV often says what the press is too timid to say, proving itself a more critical interrogator of politicians at times and a more effective mouthpiece of the people's displeasure with those in power, including the press itself" (Gray, Jones, and Thompson, p.4).


In an August 2015 episode of Last Week Tonight, host and satirist John Oliver announced that he had established a "church" named Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Oliver also set up a phone number, which enticed viewers to send in donations, though he stressed that any money donated to the "church" would be sent to the charity Doctors Without Borders. Though Oliver would announce the "church's" closure in a later episode, he would repeat the stunt twice more in 2018 (Our Lady of Choosing Choice) and 2021 (Our Lady of Perpetual Health). In all three cases, Oliver used satire to highlight issues related to televangelism, crisis pregnancy centers, and health care sharing ministries, respectively. 

John Oliver and his "Churches"

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