The Importance of Being Satire

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There is, in fact, a widespread view that humor abandons its true purpose when it ceases to punch upward from below, when it ceases to play David to the great Goliath of state or society, and instead punches down, targeting the weak and the downtrodden, the suckers and the yokels. But we would have to scrap a good deal of history’s most treasured works of humor if we were to apply this criterion rigorously. If Thomas Hobbes is correct that humor is an expression of one’s own superiority, to the humiliation of the inferior party, then we would have to scrap all of it.

The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the history and importance of satire.


Lyz's writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode, Jezebel, Aeon, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book on midwestern churches is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. She has her MFA from Lesley and skulks about on Twitter @lyzl. Lyz is a member of The Rumpus Advisory Board and a full-time staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. More from this author →