Laughter and Liability: The Politics of British and Dutch Television Satire

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Abstract

Contemporary politicians face immense rhetorical and communicative challenges. Performing on the intertwined stages of politics, media (including Internet) and everyday life, they need to master diverse and contrasting repertoires of talk. Political communication research, at present, has ignored the question of how politicians face and experience these challenges, and how they reflect on the new communicative field. In this article, we begin to redress this situation by analysing and comparing the motives, experiences and reflections of politicians who appeared in the British satirical TV show, Have I Got News for You, and its Dutch adaptation, Dit was het Nieuws. Based on in-depth interviews with seven Dutch and 14 English MPs, we conclude that they draw from three repertoires to legitimise and reflect on their participation: a strategic, indulgent and anti-elitist repertoire. The first repertoire is predictable in the context of current political communication research, whereas the latter two add new dimensions of pleasure and bottom-up representation to it.

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