Let’s start with a distinction. It is not essential but it would clarify a common mistake. The distinction is between parody and satire. Often these words are used interchangeably, and incorrectly. Skimming through various dictionaries, satire comes off as an exposé. It exposes a flaw or lacking of intelligence. Using humour, particularly irony or exaggeration to ridicule another through the use of artistic expression. It is mostly seen in literature, performance, and song but is widely applicable and is often tied to anything concerning politics or hot topics of the period the work is produced in. Satire is often made synonymous with any sort of political tongue and cheek. Parody at first glance would seem a broader tent under which satire can fit. Parody is just an inspired representation, an imitation. Yet, while some imitations seek to emulate the original subject or take them beyond projection, parody only does so to the ends of setting up a comical jab. Traditionally, these two phrases are rather simple forms. Tools in the comedian’s toolkit. Yet, with repeated use, like copies of copies, the lines become blurred and complexities are birthed in this opportunity.
The first major complexity between satire and parody arises in that they are both terms which contain each other within them. Satire can be attained through parody. This is what occurs with caricatures and political cartoons. Likewise, parody can be used for satirical ends. This, I would argue, is what happens with fake news shows, which to avoid confusion, I will refer to as satirical news shows in accordance with popular parlance. I make a distinction between these two concepts, which may seem arbitrary at the moment, because I believe there has been a historical evolution – or devolution, depending on your perspective – from satire to parody, and we are on the brink of another evolutionary step that we ought to consider the ramifications of.
Fake news for the sake of comical entertainment, what will develop into satirical news, begins in the US with a young journalist, Samuel Clemens, the man who would become immortally known as Mark Twain. While comedy and satire had a special place in various published works, Clemens would be the first to use serious mainstream media to satire the society of his day. His radical new style caused great outrage throughout the western United States between Missouri, Nevada, and California during his journalistic odyssey. News was news. What he wrote was taken as truth. Audiences did not know how to take fake news or even satire within the serious papers. The result was Clemens having to run from town to town to flee duel challenges and the wrath of local police. The danger of such a job description alone shows why the style did not catch on immediately. While the locals of mid-nineteenth century America did not appreciate Clemens’s satire in their serious papers, he would find better appreciation when he used the form in his novels.