How and why we use satire: an introduction to Avenue Q




  • the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

World War III is most likely not going to be started over a skit on SNL. The only insidious goal these sketches have are to leave the audience thinking. Sketch after sketch of ISIS members as entrepreneurs  and Ebola quarantines in the White House may cause teary-eyed laughter, but the real goal is that guilty “…wait?” that echoes after the credits roll.

What makes SNL funny is the real-life irony. The idea that sometimes Congress is more like a Schoolhouse Rock song than an administrative branch, with control over how we eat, sleep or move, is amusing. This type of humor, the exaggerated and cynical mocking, is known as satire, and its sole purpose is to bring attention to the day’s relevant controversies.

The most popular example of satire in print or online is The Onion. This magazine’s purpose is to prey on the uninformed and naive, while having a bit of fun. Many readers have been convinced when reading titles like: “40% of Celebrities end up Marrying Their Stalkers,” or “Yankees Rookie Nervously Tells A-Rod How Much He Used To Hate Him As A Kid.” The initial shock by the reported controversy hinders them from actually questioning the improbable ridiculousness. After all, anything on the internet has to be true.

Satire has made its way into mainstream television, not just on SNL, but through shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Both sketches parody real news shows, when in reality they are satiric comedies using overblown political situations to make people think. Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, for example, adopts an extremely Republican viewpoint for his character in an attempt to draw attention to, in his opinion, more extreme conservative ideals. With satirical exaggeration, Colbert and Stewart use humor to make people question the political viewpoints in our society.

In the theatre, satire has found its way to BG. This year, Avenue Q will be put on as the spring musical. Avenue Q is a satirical parody, and the puppet characters living on the slum-like Avenue Q learn life lessons one might expect from an adult version of Sesame Street.

Songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “Social Life is Online” can seem offensive without the right mindset. For example, it is the very nature of satire to point out the prevalence of racism in our society with extreme racism. The overindulgence of these negative behaviors makes the audience uncomfortable, but more importantly leaves them questioning themselves. Each extreme joke spurs the hopeful “I’m not like that, right?” in between guilty chuckles.

Avenue Q School Edition will be showing at BG on April 16 at 7p.m. and April 17 and 18 at 7:30p.m.. Come into the show with an open mind and be prepared for some sinister truths spewing from the mouths of puppets.