Satire Enters Television
Television, famously dubbed the “cool medium” by Marshall McLuhan, would seem an unlikely stage for political satirists. Yet variety shows, featuring a playbill of acts designed for diverse audiences, allowed stand-up comics, sketch comedians, and folk singers an outlet for topical material. Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and other variety and late-night hosts provided a venue for comedians of the 1950s and early 1960s, though they had to dilute or eliminate material offensive to some members of the national audience. From the mid-1960s to the present, shows like That Was the Week That Was (1964–1965), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967–1969), Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In (1968–1973), and Saturday Night Live (1975– ) courted controversy when they commented on current events. Political and social satire entered the sitcom when All in the Family (1971–1979) situated the liberal-conservative culture clash within a working-class household in Queens, New York.
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