Cover image for Satire as the Comic Public Sphere: Postmodern “Truthiness” and Civic Engagement By James E. Caron

Satire as the Comic Public Sphere

Postmodern “Truthiness” and Civic Engagement

James E. Caron


$109.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08986-7

$25.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09019-1
Coming in July

Available as an e-book

284 pages
6" × 9"
3 b&w illustrations

Humor in America

Satire as the Comic Public Sphere

Postmodern “Truthiness” and Civic Engagement

James E. Caron

“Those engaged in research and thinking on “the comic” will find this book a valuable aid.”


  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Jimmy Kimmel—these comedians are household names whose satirical takes on politics, the news, and current events receive some of the highest ratings on television. In this book, James E. Caron examines these and other satirists through the lenses of humor studies, cultural theory, and rhetorical and social philosophy, arriving at a new definition of the comic art form.

Tracing the history of modern satire from its roots in the Enlightenment values of rational debate, evidence, facts, accountability, and transparency, Caron identifies a new genre: “truthiness satire.” He shows how satirists such as Colbert, Bee, Oliver, and Kimmel—along with writers like Charles Pierce and Jack Shafer—rely on shared values and on the postmodern aesthetics of irony and affect to foster engagement within the comic public sphere that satire creates. Using case studies of bits, parodies, and routines, Caron reveals a remarkable process: when evidence-based news reporting collides with a discursive space asserting alternative facts, the satiric laughter that erupts can move the audience toward reflection and possibly even action as the body politic in the public sphere.

With rigor, humor, and insight, Caron shows that truthiness satire pushes back against fake news and biased reporting and that the satirist today is at heart a citizen, albeit a seemingly silly one. This book will appeal to anyone interested in and concerned about public discourse in the current era, especially researchers in media studies, communication studies, political science, and literary and cultural studies.

“Those engaged in research and thinking on “the comic” will find this book a valuable aid.”
“Should endure as an important, discerning account of the paradoxical nature of satire, especially in our postmodern media environment.”
“The book is masterful at bringing together a wide range of thinkers and using their insights to construct an account of satire that allows us to see its new roles and, as Bill Maher might put it, its new rules.”
“Any scholar or student interested in the roles of comic and satiric discourse in twenty-first-century culture will benefit from reading this book. In my own engagements with satire, I will turn to this book first as an authoritative sorting-out of where we are and where we are going.”

James E. Caron is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He is the author of Mark Twain, Unsanctified Newspaper Reporter and coeditor of Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses and Sut Lovingood’s Nat’ral Born Yarnspinner: Essays on George Washington Harris.



Part 1: Satire and the Public Sphere

1. Defining Satire

2. The Public Sphere

3. Truthiness Satire and the Comic Public Sphere

Part 2: Doing Things with Satiric Words

4. Satire and Speech Act Therapy

5. Satire as Speech Act, Part One

6. Satire as Speech Act, Part Two

7. The Limits of Satiric Ridicule

8. Satiric Intent and Audience Uptake

9. Find the Punchline