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Satire: How To Disguise Your Criticism With Laughter

Many professional comedians and comedy writers consider satire to be the highest, most sophisticated form of humor. This is because satire is not only humor for humor’s sake; it is actually a comment on the current social or political landscape of its particular era. For many centuries, talented humorists have used satire to point out the faults or problems with society. In fact, satire can be highly influential, so much so that many changes and improvements have been made to society as a result of well-written satire.

What Is Satire?

Satire is a work of literature or other art form that blends criticism with humor in order to bring attention to a certain fault, problem, or shortcoming. Satire uses humor to highlight these problems with the hope that they will be improved upon. Well-written satire will not only entertain, it will also cause the audience to consider problems that they otherwise might not have been aware of, and may inspire them to actively seek changes that can answer these problems. There are many different forms of satire, but they all have this specific concept in common.

What You Should Know When Writing Satire

Know what you want to accomplish: Despite what some writers may claim, good satire is always written with a specific goal in mind. In order for your satire to be successful, you must be able to identify what particular problem or shortcoming you would like to see changed before you start writing. This specific goal may change as you write and discover knew information, but nevertheless there must be a goal in mind before the writing begins.

  • Know your audience: A general description of the type of people that are going to be reading your work is an extremely important aspect of successful satire. Obviously, what an audience of widowed retirees thinks is funny is going to differ from what an audience of rowdy young college students considers humorous. The differences do not have to be so exaggerated, either. For example, material that married couples consider funny can differ from what makes single people laugh. You must write your satire according to these differences in order for the material to be successful. As the saying goes, “the customer is always right.” This applies to writing satire as well. Your satire is only funny if the people who read it happen to think it is.
  • Know the limits of good taste: This is a problem encountered far too frequently in the world of satire. Satire that crosses the line of good taste is not simply bad writing, it is an object that can actually cause damage. For example, many people labeled the notorious Belgian cartoons that depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed to be a form of satire. While the reactions of militant Muslims can never be excused, it must also be pointed out that these problems would never have occurred were it not for satire that had crossed the line of sensibility and good taste. Of course, these cartoons were pictures, not writing, but the point remains the same – do not cross the line of bad taste when creating satire. The line that separates good taste from bad taste can often be difficult to see. In such situations, it is better to write conservatively, to ensure that the line is not unintentionally crossed.

A Final Reminder for Satire Writers

Satire can be a very powerful tool for bringing about change. Well-written satire can often create positive changes within society that couldn’t have been made with the use of guns or violence. But conversely, satire can also bring about negative changes and cause a great deal of damage and even the loss of life. Therefore, please use satire wisely.


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