chapter  27
Carnival, Radical Humor, and Media Politics
WithRobert Stam
Pages 11

This chapter discusses humor as an under-used resource for the left. It examines some radical uses of humor, parody, and carnival as festive-revolutionary practices. Carnival is utopian in Marcuse's sense of "opening up "a dimension inaccessible to other experience, a dimension in which human beings, nature, and other things no longer stand under the law of the established reality principle." Artists often practice carnivalesque strategies, and audiences enjoy them, without necessarily knowing their historical genealogy or conceptual basis. The Renaissance of political satire on cable television typified by figures like Colbert and Jon Stewart ultimately traces its roots to a specific homegrown US form of the carnivalesque, variously known as "sick humor" or "black humor." The drums carnivalize protest, combining primal feelings of oceanic celebration and ecstatic feelings of union not only between body and mind but also with other human beings.