Week 8: Writing Satire

Every day can be red-nose day for satirists. Photo: Marco Verch/CC/flickr

Not all news writing and reporting has to be serious. Journalism isn’t all political scandals, court hearings, car crashes, special investigations and budget sums.

You can be funny too. And make a serious point at the same time.

The Oxford Dictionary defines satire as “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”.

The history of satire stretches back as far as the 7th Century BC and includes some of the most famous names in literature:

  • Aesop (Aesop’s Fables)
  • Aristophanes (The Frogs, The Birds, The Clouds)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales)
  • Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels)
  • Charles Dickens (Bleak House)
  • Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)
  • Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest)
  • George Orwell (Animal Farm)
  • Joseph Heller (Catch-22)

Here is a top 10 list of the best fictional satire from The Guardian

And here is IMDB’s 10 best satirical films


DISCUSSION

Do you have a favourite satirical film, book, TV show or song?


We don’t need to look overseas, as Australians were once guilty of doing, or read the old masters. Australia has its own satirical greats and 21st Century provocateurs. 

The Chaser bills itself as a satirical media empire which rivals Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in all fields except power, influence, popularity and profitability.

But The Chaser boys have a challenger: The Betoota Advocate.

Focusing on sport, but like all good satirists saying so much more, “Rampaging” Roy Slaven and HG Nelson are still at the top of their game.

Australian Story recently took a close look at what makes them tick in Roy and HG: The chemistry behind Australia’s enduring comedy act.

Finally, deploying nothing but deadpan acting and razor-sharp writing, John Clarke and Brian Dawe produced some of this country’s finest satire.

With their decision to avoid tricks and stunts, impersonations and costumes, Clarke and Dawe are perhaps the best examples about the key to effective satire – the writing. At its heart satire is the manipulation of words to subvert, to amuse, to outrage.

Satire Writing Tips

yourdictionary.com has some good advice. Consider too these tips:

  • The best satire is intelligent and knowledgeable.
  • Try to appear to be serious while delivering satire, as it can be hilarious. It is subtle, but effective, when at first glance it looks like you are actually reporting on a real event.
  • Try taking things further than they have already gone. If there is a trend in a story, you could play it out to suggest what might happen down the line.
  • See if you can turn things around, like advising someone to do the exact opposite of what they should do.
  • The best satire seems light but packs a real punch underneath.

Resources

TASK

Write a short satirical piece – can be a story, poem, song, cartoon or profile of a satirical TV show or publication – of about 200 words.

TIP: Pop culture can provide a wonderful base ingredient for satire. It’s also helpful to think in terms of the news of the day.

BONUS CONTENT

Read

Fiction:

Non-fiction:

Watch

(Thanks, Kaylan 💜)

Listen

Think

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