My Mom always told me that it’s important to be an informed citizen and to follow the news. She also told me that laughter is the best medicine. So with that advice in mind, why get your news from serious places like the New York Times or Meet the Press when you can get all your news from funny places like The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, or The Onion? You might not know as much, but according to my mom, you probably won’t ever have to go to the doctor. The following list compiles the ten news events/people/ideas that inspired the most comedy in 2010. The rankings look at the number of cultural references across the major comedic outlets, like The Daily Show/Colbert Report, South Park, Saturday Night Live, etc., in combination with the view count and quality of the comedic content. The rankings are in no way scientific and there are some really funny things that happened in 2010 that didn’t make the top 10, like TSA body scanners for one. So please forgive me if you think jokes inspired by the ground zero mosque were way more prevalent in 2010 than jokes inspired by anything on this list.
Please note: Comedy from 2010 that made fun of events from 2009 were not included in this list (e.g. Tiger Woods and Avatar).
Who knew over 15,000 pages of leaked documents could be so funny? On December 10th, Splitsider ran an article on the strong comedic reaction to the Wikileaks story. In short, Wikileaks offered plenty of material for all of the late night outlets. Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart made jokes at its expense. As the scandal became more prominent, Bill Hader’s impersonation of Julian Assange became a recurring character on Saturday Night Live, appearing in the last three episodes. I’ve never heard Assange speak, but I’m pretty sure Hader sounds just like him.
The web video chatting site isn’t just for showing your penis to random people. Chatroulette made a brief appearance in the South Park episode, “You have 0 Friends,” and a Daily Show clip that had a bunch of celebrity newscasters! I wouldn’t recommend trying to find celebrities on Chatroulette, you’ll probably just find penises.
8. The Shake Weight
The real commercial for the Shake Weight, the dumbbell that makes exercising resemble a sexual act, already looks like a Saturday Night Live parody. But that didn’t stop SNL and South Park from making the ridiculous even more ridiculous. SNL produced a fake commercial for the Shake Weight DVD, while South Park created a Shake Weight that releases a cooling fluid, dispenses cab fare, and goes into sleep mode at the end of each workout.
7. The Rent is Too Damn High Party
The performance of Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent is Too Damn High Party, at the New York gubernatorial debate in October was comedy enough. Don’t get me wrong, I voted for the guy and I blame my high rent on everyone who didn’t. But I’m willing to admit that the guy is most likely crazy. Saturday Night Live capitalized on McMillan’s craziness with a Keenan impersonation at the desk during Weekend Update. Riding his fifteen minutes of fame, McMillan appeared in a Funny or Die video that declared Charlie Sheen is Too Damn High. I’m not sure if his full length album qualifies as comedy or just plain weird; apparently the Grammys weren’t sure either because he wasn’t nominated for Best Comedy Album or Best New Artist.
6. Justin Bieber
While capturing the heart of every teenage girl in the country, Justin Bieber became a prime subject for comedy fodder. In an April Fool’s prank, Bieber took over Funny or Die, and Raaaaaaaandy (Aziz Ansari) exposed Bieber as a fraud who stole his biggest hit. The Biebs also received the South Park and Saturday Night Live treatment and made an appearance in plenty of internet videos, like these from The Onion News Network and UCBComedy.
CollegeHumor declared Steve Jobs’s latest creation a comedy gold mine. Modern Family used the iPad in what looked like product placement, but was actually just a plot device in one of the best episodes of the first season. Even Pee-Wee Herman had his chance to play with an iPad in a Funny or Die video. I hope the second generation is just as funny.
4. The Release of Inception
From one perspective, Inception offers a psychoanalysis of the subconscious as a gateway to our dreams. From another perspective, Inception is hilarious. CollegeHumor made two great sketches making fun of the movie. South Park then copied CollegeHumor “by mistake.” And then even non-famous people made some good sketches lampooning the movie on YouTube. See Dora the Explorer in Inception and a Gross Misuse of Inception.
3. Jersey Shore
The second season of The Jersey Shore in Miami Beach helped to keep the show relevant in 2010. It also helped sustain Bobby Moynihan’s Snooki impersonation, which made four appearances on SNL in 2010. South Park took on the Jersey Shore and made Snooki look surprisingly scary in cartoon form. And in one of their most viewed videos of 2010, CollegeHumor got in on the action with a clever RPG parody. I bet Angelina is super jealous that none of the comedians make fun of her.
2. BP Oil Spill
For three months, oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. For those three months, phrases like Top Kill, Containment Dome, and Junk Shot provided late night comedians with plenty of material. Both The Daily Show and the Colbert Report devoted over thirty segments each to the incompetence of BP and the government. In addition, South Park devoted a storyline in the episode “Coon 2: Hindsight” to the oil spill, CollegeHumor made a fake BP commercial, SNL created a mock press conference, and, in arguably one of the best political comedy sketches of 2010, UCBComedy.com showed how BP might respond to an office coffee spill.
1. The Tea Party Movement
In 2010, political humor pretty much meant tea party humor. I don’t really know where to begin. In one week, Sarah Palin wrote notes on her hand and defended Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word retard and, in his most viewed clip of 2010, Stephen Colbert offered a pitch perfect retort. Jon Stewart deftly illustrated why Glenn Beck is a ridiculous human being. Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate for Senator in Delaware, dabbled in witchcraft and led an anti-masturbation campaign, and SNL made fun of her for it. Oh, and they also inspired a comedy rally that drew a crowd of more than 200,000 people.
Honorable Mentions: TSA, Brett Favre, 4 Loco, Conan/Jay Scandal, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Ground Zero Mosque.
Daniel Hurwitz is a 22 year old writer living in New York. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys eating non-local, watching Lost reruns, and not writing.