What does Stephen Colbert have to do with civil discourse? A lot, actually.

As part of my internship, I get to research, develop and host podcasts about issues I think are important to the American people and civil dialogue.

Last semester I took a class called Satire in Latin American Culture, where I learned a lot about the art of satire, its purposes, and its methods. So when the news broke over Kathy Griffin’s stunt, and the New York Public Theater’s Trump-esque production of ‘Julius Caesar,’ I realized that satire has a pretty large impact on the way we treat each other in political discussions.

Through my research, I found that comedians walk a fine line between attracting viewership by pushing the limits of what is considered socially acceptable, while avoiding going to far with commentary that can be perceived as vulgar or insensitive. There is also an awful lot of truth in satire- often comedians say the thoughts we are all thinking, but do not say out loud. Satire is brutally honest by nature, however sometimes this isn’t always a good thing.

When politics become as partisan and hostile as they are today, satirists will often try to reflect the environment their audience is living in. This can lead to acts like Kathy Griffin’s, and even more recently, Johnny Depp’s statement which suggested the assassination of the president. This sort of behavior from the people who have a powerful platform to influence the wider public is certainly unacceptable, and maybe even dangerous.

For the podcast, I decided to find an expert in political satire, to hear their opinion on what satire’s role is in the national conversation. It wasn’t long before I came across Dr. Alison Dagnes, a professor at Shippensburg University (right next to Dickinson!!) who has written two books on political satire.

Professor Dagnes enthusiastically agreed to be interviewed in my podcast, which was recorded on Friday. I don’t want to spoil the details of our exciting discussion, but I will say she was hilarious, knowledgable and very insightful. Give the podcast a listen here – I promise you won’t be disappointed!

In other news, this weekend I visited Alexandria, VA, saw the tavern where George Washington and his fellow Founding Fathers used to hang out, learned the hard way what “Safe Track” is, saw the presidential and vice presidential motorcades, kayaked down the Potomac River, and had cupcakes at Georgetown’s famous Baked and Wired.