I think it very much depends on the type of political humor. Most of the traditional late-night comedians like Leno and Letterman do traffic in a more cynical form of political humor. The jokes are primarily aimed at the personal foibles of particular public figures, sending the overall message that all politicians are corrupt/lazy/stupid, etc. and that there is not much we can do about it except feel superior. That type of political humor arguably does foster a cynical distrust of politics.However, I think the satirists surveyed in the book are doing something far different. For starters, both the humor and the critique tend to be aimed at policy as opposed to just personalities. While someone like Jon Stewart, for instance, does not necessarily pass up all opportunities to take pot shots at particular people, his primary focus is more often on a particular bill, an ideological fight, or the way in which a substantive issue is being framed by the news media.This type of humor is not ultimately about how useless it is to care about political issues; rather it is premised on the feeling that there are political issues out there that we should care deeply about. Indeed, Stewart’s interview segments often then demonstrate an attempt to find solutions to problems through earnest debate with his guests.
Here’s an interview that Harry Jenkins did with Amber Day, author of Satire and Dissent: Interventions in Contemporary Political Debate. In her book, she looks at political comedians and satirists such as Colbert, Stewart, Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, the Yes Men and their effect on the political process. Here, she discusses whether or not watching a show like The Daily Show makes one cynical about politics. It’s a pretty fascinating discussion.Check out the full interview here.