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Late Night Shows on Political News

“Tonight live from Los Angeles, New York City and Köln-Ehrenfeld: The News??”

This introductory sentence is essentially how almost every Late Night/ Comedy Show starts. Usually spoken by an announcer, it is causing the viewer in front of the TV and in the studio to cheer in excitement for the host. Accompanied by a band, the protagonist of the evening enters the stage to hold his monologue about topics from all over the place, minor and major subjects. What is surprising: Lately more and more time, however, is taken in by political news, which is quite understandable in such a politicized time we are living in. With the US-Election around the corner, Donald Trump as the possible POTUS (President of the United States), the AfD in Germany gaining more attention (and votes) than ever, the U.K. thinking about leaving the EU there are so many topics with potential for news and comedy at once.

Stephen Colbert on the Iowa Caucus

What has changed?

Nowadays if people want to inform themselves on politics and society they don’t read the New York Times or the FAZ, neither do they watch CNN, Tagesschau or BBC News — most of the time they watch Late Night Shows e.g. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or even Neo Magazin Royale with Jan Böhmermann. And this is not even the start: Furthermore there is Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Daily Show, The Nightly Show, heute-show and many, MANY more. Especially in the US, but also in Germany and other European countries there is a multiplicity of Late Night Shows, which discuss (at least some of the time) political issues. People like Colbert, Fallon, Oliver and Böhmermann have become “Welterklärer” — explainers of the world to many of today’s generation and especially the shows, which focus on politics, profit from that function. John Oliver made a whole show, which consists of explaining politics to everyone in a humorous way and is extremely successful with it.

John Oliver on Primaries and Caucuses

That’s great, isn’t it?

Most of these hosts are pretty good at conveying political news. Especially John Oliver succeeds at explaining the most barren subjects in a manner which makes them sound intriguing, but one thing we should not forget, is that most of those people are comedians and not political experts (although they probably hired someone who is). While we worship them for their simple and light-hearted views on things and their broad knowledge, which they manage to convey entertainingly, we should probably not consider them for in-depth analysis of complex topics. They don’t even have the time in their show to discuss dense issues from multiple perspectives and overarching. So in the end Late Night Shows are a great way to get a first impression on an issue and they are definitely very entertaining, but in order to become educated and form an opinion on something you should use multiple sources from different point of views. This way there is a public debate possible, even on the tough topics.

Photo credit: Shawn Harquail via DesignHunt / CC BY-NC
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