Shippensburg faculty member authors book on political humor

“A conservative walks into a bar” sounds like the start of one of many typical jokes. It actually is part of the title of a new book by a Shippensburg University faculty member that focuses on political humor. dagneshumorcover 

“A Conservative Walks Into a Bar: The Politics of Political Humor,” the latest book by Dr. Alison Dagnes, associate professor of political science, is now available. 

Dagnes said she got interested in the topic when she saw that more and more people were considering The Daily Show to be a real news source and this raised criticism from those who claimed it was liberally biased. In addition, she does extensive research in political communication and comedy is an excellent mechanism to communicate politically.  

Dagnes, who joined Shippensburg in 2003, teaches on such topics as politics and the media, American political thought, political parties and elections, and the legislative process. She is the author of a book on the effects of the 24-hour news system and how politicians and others in politics use media to their own advantage. She also joined eight other Shippensburg faculty members last year to co-author a book on sex scandals and politics. Dagnes is also quoted frequently in various mediums in the U.S. and other countries on a range of political topics.  

Dagnes earned her degree in government from Saint Lawrence University in 1991. She then joined C-SPAN for five years as a producer, a post that piqued her interest in American politics. And ultimately led her to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where she earned her Ph.D. in political science in 2003.  

The book is an outgrowth of the perception, especially by conservatives, that modern political satire has a liberal bias, as seen in such programs as The Daily Show. A review of political humor by Dagnes shows that there are very few conservative political satirists. The book uses interviews with political humorists to explores the history of satire, the comedy profession, and the nature of satire itself to examine the ideological imbalance in podagneslitical humor and to explore the consequences of this disparity.  

The book examines various broadcast programs, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Saturday Night Live, and explains satire as it relates to politics. 

In his review of the book, Dr. Michael Parkin, associate professor of politics at Oberlin College in Ohio, called it a thoughtful analysis of political satire in America. Its unique focus on why there is so little satire on the political right raises broader questions about the connection between humor and American politics,” he wrote. “Combining experiments with rich historical descriptions, Dagnes shows that while satire is largely a liberal phenomena, it is not necessarily prejudicial. Instead, satire should be viewed as a vitally important tool of political criticism and debate. This book does a wonderful job of contextualizing and assessing the current state of American political humor.”  

Several events are planned after its publication, including a book discussion Oct. 8 on Sirius/XM Radio from New York City with Pete Dominick. Other events include a book talk Oct. 25 at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a book talk Nov. 14 at Brookline Booksmith in Boston.