All Joking Aside

john oliver canada
By: Omri Marcus (@omarcus), Special to

John Oliver made it big time. His brilliant piece imploring Canadians to not re-elect the Prime Minister of Canada (See YouTube Below) made headlines all over Canadian and international press. From Canada’s Globe and Mail to The Wall Street Journal, media outlets worldwide covered the unusual call of the comic and some of them had serious discussions whether it had an actual part in the downfall of the leader.

The concept of comedy as the generator of a change in the world is nothing new but in the noisy environment we live in, where we’re constantly bombarded with endless information, it has proven itself time and again as a powerful tool for capturing one of the world’s most rare resources – our attention.

It seems that ever since the media was around to document it, politicians with comic timing succeeded in getting their message across effectively. The best of them know how to exploit it against their opponents. When President Reagan was asked in a political debate how he could be president at his advanced age (he was 72) his reply, arguably a tipping point of an otherwise dreary and paltry debate: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” (See YouTube Below)

Thatcher’s contempt speech towards the Liberal Democratic Party, was an amusing paraphrase of Monty Python’s sketch “dead parrot” and is nothing less than an admirable example of effective rhetoric. In her speech, Thatcher went on and on using every synonym and phrase she could come up with to describe her opponents. The audience went crazy laughing. (See YouTube Below)

Finally, the French most probably remember vividly the 1988 presidential debate thanks to an amusing comeback of President Mitterrand. His opponent Jacques Chirac tried to position himself as equal to Mitterrand by saying “At this moment we do not have a difference. You’re not the president and I’m not the prime minister. We’re both just potential presidents”, and Mitterrand disdainfully replied, “I accept”, then after a perfect comic pause added “I accept, Prime Minister”. The French could not stop laughing. (See YouTube Below)

In Israeli elections comedy has also become the “new black”. The Israeli Prime Minister, who couldn’t find time to publish a clear platform, political vision or to give any interviews, had plenty of time to shoot funny sketches, showing impressive comic abilities. (See YouTube Below) Soon all the other parties did the same and produced their own comic ads.

And those who still do not believe that comedy is much more than a joke, are welcome to talk to a certain North Korean leader that almost started a world war because of a silly Seth Rogen comedy, or visit in the forever traumatized offices of Charlie Hebdo.

The modern reality is so complicated and depressing, that you have to be crazy to take it seriously all the time. Comedy is a powerful tool to break an impossible situation into a bite size morsel. What I’m saying is that it’s about time to take comedy more seriously.

Omri Marcus is a television & new media entrepreneur and the CEO of the Comic Genome Project. He graduated the Entertainment Master Class (EMC) program after serving as a creative partner at Red Arrow International, where he developed formats in multiple genres (game shows, reality, dating and factual). He is known as the ‘Israeli TV’s Wunderkind’ by Tablet Magazine and as ‘King of Comedy’ by C21 Media. Omri is the founder and creative director of “Comedy for a Change” – an international conference discussing the power of comedy to drive social changes.

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