The Absurdity Of Life Is Why We Prefer The Levity Of Late Night Television

I think it’s because “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” While previous generations have chosen to forgo the aid of humor in downing bad news (or were not aware of the option), those of us who have grown up in a post-modern atmosphere have learned that it is possible to lighten the mood and ease the tension by throwing in a joke or two during the news report.

I don’t watch regular news. It’s a vicious 24-hour cycle, full of misinformation, overused sound bytes, and centric (ethnic or otherwise) thinking. Instead, I turn to late night to hear about what’s going on in the world, through the medium of shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Conan, Last Week Tonight, and Saturday Night Live.

Saturday Night Live’s segment “Weekend Update” manages to cover topics from silly news stories about the weird stuff that happens in Florida to the skewering of officials who should have known better, The Colbert Report pretends to be the opposite of what is really being said, and The Daily Show provides dazzlingly clever commentary on the world of politics, pointing out the inconsistencies and irresponsible decisions of those in authority.

Post-modernism and the acknowledgment of the absurdity of life has a lot to do with this. We can either drown in the horror of tragedy, burn with impotent rage, or we can survive by showing life that we aren’t going down without a fight. “I laugh in the face of danger,” etc.

word-image-latenightWhat’s the point of pretending everything has to be taken seriously? Life’s too short, ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, we have people like Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver (and newcomer James Corden) pointing out the absurdity and the everyday silliness of humanity’s foibles.

This does a few things: We can sift through the garbage of the news cycle for the important bits that we can do something about (everything from voting to sending aid), and the silly stuff that gets paraded around like it actually matters. It also provides us with a way to take power from the events and people who wish us harm.

It’s why we make jokes about dictators, or tweet snide comments about the ridiculousness of meninism or anti-vaxxers, or come up with clever ways to diss corporations. Once we acknowledge the fears we have and muster up the courage to laugh, they don’t hold as much power over us as before, especially if we’re all laughing together. This allows us to step aside and consider things from a more objective vantage point, which helps in eradicating the paralyzing pressure of the future, and instead can point us in the direction of positive change and creative solutions.

While we will be saying goodbye to The Colbert Report as well as Jon Stewart, this late night news format won’t be saying farewell anytime soon. James Corden, John Oliver, Conan O’Brien, SNL and others will still devote show segments to making light of the darkness regular news would have you believe is intent upon devouring us all, insisting that we can rise above it and illuminate the real issues instead of glossing everything over with trivial minutiae.

Image Credits: NBC
K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.

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