Political comedy engagement: Genre work, political identity and cultural citizenship

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Political comedy is a hybrid genre that mixes political news and analysis with comedy and entertainment. As it becomes more and more popular in most media forms and national contexts, researchers struggle to understand its role in relation to other types of political media, and of citizenship; in this sense, it challenges scholarly conceptualisation of political media and citizenship. Thus, this thesis examines and develops the understanding of how audience engagement in political comedy encourages political and cultural citizenship. The focus on engagement allows the study to emphasise diverse subject positions and their dynamic character. Additionally, it stresses that reasoning is both emotional and rational, rather than either or, which is especially important in the study of political comedy. By mapping contemporary examples of political comedy as well as carrying out in-depth interviews and focus groups with 31 young adult Swedes (18-35 years old) who regularly engage with political comedy (Swedish radio programme Tankesmedjan and/or American television programme The Daily Show), the study’s analytical attention is on modes of address as well as audience engagement. Focussing on constructions of genre, so-called ‘genre work,’ political identity and cultural citizenship, the thesis reiterates contemporary scholarly critique of the modern era ideal type of a dutiful, rational and well-informed citizen, from a normative and empirical standpoint. The study’s findings include a challenge to the understanding of ‘entertainment’ as separate from, and less valuable than, ‘information’; and contributes a deeper understanding of how audiences engage with these kinds of political media spaces. It shows how such spaces allow for so-called political play and emotional authenticity, which is important for the developing citizen. Further, it illustrates how audiences enjoy the double mode of engagement that is required by political comedy’s mix of serious and silly, whereby they analyse which is what. The thesis contributes knowledge about political comedy audiences being skilled, ‘media-savvy’ and ‘self-informed,’ yet lacking in political efficacy. They are highly interested in political news and political issues, but worry about various social aspects of increasing their political participation, which the present study labels as ‘uneasy’ citizenship. In this context, audiences enjoy the so-called symbolic levelling that results from political comedy’s critique of conventional journalism’s claim of epistemic authority. Through this, political comedy aids young adults in feeling like citizens, in a political and cultural sense, as it represents critical thinking and promotes an understanding of the perspectives of others. The thesis argues that the growing engagement in political comedy is a symptom of contemporary young adult citizenship, where the use of irony and humour is a way of coping with uneasiness. Hence, the study shows that political comedy engagement is an expression of the need for a wide variety of political media spaces, where different aspects of young adult citizenship can be recognised, including the emotional.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Media and Communications
  • Media Studies


  • political comedy, audiences, satire, engagement, citizenship, cultural citizenship, genre, hybridity, identity
Translated title of the contributionEngagemang i politisk komedi: Genrearbete, politisk identitet och kulturellt medborgarskap
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2016 Sep 16
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7623-895-0
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7623-896-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Aug 16
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2016-09-16 Time: 13:00 Place: auditorium, SOL-centrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Hermes, Joke Title: Professor Affiliation: Inholland University ---

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Related activities

Hill, A. (First/primary/lead supervisor)
2012 Sep 12016 Sep 30

Activity: Examination and supervisionSupervision of PhD students

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