Ethel Booba’s witty commentaries and the impact of comedy on politics

May 24, 2018 - 3:50 PM
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Politics and comedy may be two different things but comedienne Ethyl Gabison a.k.a. Ethel Booba mingles them in a way that catches people's attention. What does this say about the role of comedy in political discussions? (Art by Uela Badayos)

People are recognizing comedienne Ethel Booba for her witty commentaries on political issues in social media, showing comedy can be influential in politically-charged discussions and conversations.

Ethel is known for her political insights on Twitter which, upon first read, seem to be light and non-serious but actually touches on the reality of current issues.

The commentaries are packed, concise and popular enough that some are urging her to run in the 2019 elections. Ethel, however, has repeatedly refused the suggestion.

Poet Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta noted that Ethel’s tweets can be considered “good political satire” since they do not actively protest or give angry analysis.

Instead, they present insights in a non-pretentious and entertaining kind of way which does not hold any political agenda or vendetta.

Comedy in the political sphere 

Politics is a heavy topic and it’s usually talked about in the manner of debates. Other times, it is packaged in jokes or anecdotes, like Ethel’s.

In fact, there are specific terms that pertain to this—political satire, political comedy and political humor.

For Nichole Force, author of “Humor’s Hidden Power: Weapon, Shield and Psychological Salve,” people hold on to humor as a form of coping mechanism in stressful situations.

“Placing a comical spin on dire circumstances that are outside one’s control was an effective coping mechanism,” she wrote.

“Placing a comical spin on dire circumstances that are outside one’s control was an effective coping mechanism.”

Al Gini, a professor of business ethics at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University, believes that people need humor to have a fresh perspective at things and “to step back from (serious issues) a while.”

The use of humor to discuss political issues have been present since the time of Plato. Dannagal Young, a professor of communication at the University of Delaware, noted that “humor has always played an important role in political life.”

“In fact, satirists like Aristophanes writing in ancient Greece used rich political satire and irony to expose hypocrisy and flaws among elites and within policies and institutions.”

“In reality, humor has always had a very natural place in politics, particularly in democratic regimes where elected officials are accountable for their actions and citizens look at them with a critical eye,” Young observed.

“Humor has always had a very natural place in politics, particularly in democratic regimes where elected officials are accountable for their actions.”

In Ethel’s case, she is able to offer critical perspectives on political issues through the eyes of an average citizen who once voted for the people in public office and is now using humor to point out their flaws and misgivings.

The same goes for the administration of US president Donald Trump, who has been the butt of jokes in comedy shows and viral social media conversations ever since he took office.

Vulture Magazine interviewed longtime and new comedians who were asked to give their insights on comedy during Trump’s time.

Andy Kindler said comedy would definitely get “more political” during the controversial presidency of Trump, who has been called as a “strongman” by TIME Magazine.

Eugene Mirman added, “Comedy will hopefully be both a distracting source of joy and a check on Trump’s sour, bullish ignorance and potential abuse of power.”

Sue Smith shared, “Comedy sheds a light on dark places you don’t want to check out by yourself.”

Trump has been the center of conversation in comedy talk shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” among others.

Political humor in previous administrations 

It is not just Ethel who has caught Filipinos’ attention with sharp, witty comedy.

Critics-slash-constituents of previous presidents have also created memes to point out mistakes and shortcomings of past government officials, such as Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Before the era of social media though, political figures were made fun of in comics, television shows, radio programs and other traditional forms of media.

For instance, Pol Medina’s comic book series “Pugad Baboy” is known to contain jokes that pertain to the government.

Culture Trip noted, “Politicians, celebrities and other public figures are often the butt of Medina’s gags, though his attacks on pop-social culture and public personalities are rarely direct, instead drawing on general caricatures and ironic commentary.” — Art by Uela Badayos