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Abstract

Politics have always been targets for comedians and some comedians, like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, are known to make their comedy “real” by interacting with politicians and driving people towards civic action. Scholars have only begun to study “satiractivism” and one key issue in its study has been defining it. In this paper, I show how one definitions of satiractivism has been insufficient in describing the work of one satiractivist, John Oliver, on his show Last Week Tonight. To form the theoretical framework of my research, I employ the criticism of James Caron, George Test, and Marcus Paroske and their definitions of satiractivism, satire, and a satirical technique called participatory satire, respectively. Using three episodes of Last Week Tonight, I conclude that even though Oliver’s work sometimes falls into contemporary definitions of satiractivism, ultimately he has forged a new type of satiractivism that relies on indirect participation with his audience and politicians and on participating and engaging with civic issues directly. My conclusions demonstrate that definitions of and relating to satiractivism should be expanded or new ones coined if we are going to continue to seriously study how these comedians are trying to do more than make people laugh.

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