The Power of Laughter

Who was it who said nothing forbids us from telling the truth, laughing? It must have been some old-souled Roman or such (OK, it was Horace), but the preference for many educated Americans today is to mix their serious interests with a good dose of levity. It’s a yin-yang sort of thing that some pundits just don’t get.

This past Sunday, in an article from the New York Times, Julie Bosman noted that fans of fake-news comedy shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report seem to be big buyers of non-fiction work. Online sales for a book normally skyrocket after an appearance on one of these shows. As Julie mentions, such shows “have become the most reliable venues for promoting weighty books whose authors would otherwise end up on ‘The Early Show’ on CBS looking like they showed up at the wrong party.”

So what’s going on here: publicists and authors opting for Jon Stewart over Charlie Rose and Jay Leno? It’s all a reflection of the audience demographics. Who else, for instance, would want to talk to a scholarly author, an anthropologist and paleontologist, about sweaty skin, lubricated, pierced and tatooed? The Early Show? Please.

No longer dismissed as marginalized slackers or YouTubeheads, those who patronize the world of comedy represent a diverse spectrum of the population—and that spectrum is quite erudite and salty.

Stephen Colbert gets under Nina Jablonski’s Skin with his interview discussing her book on the same subject.