Monday, January 22, 2018

Journalism After Dark? Late Nite Jokes and the Joking Jokers Who Tell Them.

Jimmy Kimmel
Many consumers now get most of their “news” from the late nite shows. With that in mind, there are a few important differences between newscasts and those shows that viewers should be aware of.

The hosts are not journalists.

Jimmy Kimmel worked in radio for several years at the beginning of his career. According to Wikipedia, he was on KROQ in Los Angeles for five years as Jimmy The Sports Guy. Carson Daly also had some radio experience early in his career. 

None of the other current late nite hosts appear to have any experience or degrees in journalism. Most of them (Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Samantha  Bee, etc.) worked their way up to their current spots doing standup comedy, improv, or some other form of entertainment.

The late nite shows don’t appear to employ reporters who go to press conferences, who sift through documents to see what’s there, who knock on the doors of businesses or the homes of people who might prefer not to talk to them, etc. The hosts themselves occasionally go to big events like political conventions.

Writers and producers of the late nite shows get their news by watching or reading news that has been put together by established news organizations. News organizations have writers, editors, and producers who actually do the work of journalism.

Late nite hosts only provide commentary on news that they, or the people working for them, have seen elsewhere. They might get their news from CNN, Fox, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, or one of the other news outlets.

Joking Jokers usually start with a premise.

Late nite talk shows aren't about news and imparting information. They are about the hosts' opinions and getting laughs through jokes. The premise is the underlying idea for a joke. When joke-writers have a go-to premise that they like, they may look primarily for news items that will work with that premise. 

For example, if a writer likes “Donald Trump is obnoxious” as a premise, he or she will gravitate toward news items which support that premise. It’s easier than starting from scratch because his or her mind already works in that direction.

Late night hosts like to promote their own points of view.

Ideally, journalists are supposed to be objective and unbiased in the way they present their stories. They gather information and organize it in such a way that consumers can comprehend the key elements of a story. Journalists aren’t perfect and sometimes their biases seep into their work. Nevertheless, objectivity is one of the ideals journalists are supposed to strive toward.

In contrast, late nite hosts never pretend to be objective. Most who become successful do so by being themselves - the good, the bad, and, occasionally, the vulgar. The entertainment business is very competitive. Working your way up is tough. Hosting a late nite show is the pinnacle of success for those who are fortunate enough to get there.

One of the privileges of having a big microphone is being able to promote one’s own beliefs and to make fun of the people with whom one disagrees. Merely getting laughs sometimes ceases to be enough. Many use their talents to address the issues that are important to them. Also, they tend to do things in such a way as to show that their perspectives on issues are the only ones that make sense.

Topical joke-writers are mostly looking at front-page stories and writing jokes that will appeal the hosts they're working for.

Back in the day, I had a contract to write jokes for a late nite host. He was paying top dollar, but I only got paid if he used one of the jokes I sent in. Every morning, I read a few newspapers looking for joke fodder. The big stories that most people would be familiar with were normally on the front page. That’s where I looked for material. The host was politically progressive and I, naturally, tried to write jokes that would appeal to him. Getting my foot in the door wasn't easy and there were many other comedians sending in jokes. It wouldn't have made sense to write jokes that had no chance of making the cut.  
“As most people who work on such programs (late-night comedy shows) would be quick to remind you, late-night shows have a much different function than cable news: They’re comedic first responders, synthesizing the news of the day and presenting it in more palatable, punchline-filled segments that try to make some sense of what’s going on in the world — or, barring that, to highlight how the most ridiculous news stories can be hilarious too.” Caroline Framke, Vox
Newsmax compiles lists of what they consider the Best of the Late Nite Jokes a day or two after they air. It’s worth checking out.

If you found this blog post informative, please share it with your friends and associates.

If you have an opinion to share, a question to ask, or if you’d like to suggest a topic for a future blog post on fake news, please leave a comment. 

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