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Satirists Lampoon GOP Brand At Duke

This story was written by Bhumi Purohit, The Duke Chronicle

President George W. Bush reciting a haiku. President-elect Barack Obama asking Americans, "Are you happy with your cell phone service?"

Not your average night in Sanford.

At Wednesday night's panel discussion, "Laughing at Power: Satire in American Politics," in the Duke UniversityInstitute of Public Policy, four political satirists poked fun at the outgoing Republican Party for their unsuccessful policies.

"Elizabeth Dole asked me to say 'Greetings, Godless North Carolinians," jested Kevin Bleyer, an Emmy Award-winning writer for "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

The panel featured political cartoons by Dwane Powell, an editorial cartoonist for The (Raleigh) News and Observer, Kevin "Kal" Kallaugher, editorial cartoonist for The Economist and artist-in-residence at Sanford and Adam Chodikoff, Trinity '93, a producer for "The Daily Show."

The satirists showcased some of their work, adding their own commentaries.

"Our goal is to be skeptical to keep you stoned slackers from being cynical," Bleyer said.

Powell's presentation revolved around Jesse Helms in North Carolina politics. Helms, a former Republican senator, inspired Powell's progressive work.

Much of his work featured during the panel involved political satire on the Republican Party. His talk ended with cartoons from the election campaigns.

"Political cartoonists do our job when we stimulate people's thought process," Powell said.

Kallaugher agreed that satire can deliver a message with humor.

"I often say that you can judge the maturity of a democracy by the amount of satire it can endure," he said. "Those who live in a free society will find ways to laugh at power."

Bleyer's presentation featured television political satire, such as a fake advertisement with President Bush and Little Richard. An increasing number of people are relying on "fake news," he said.

"Every few years, the Pew Research Center finds that more and more people rely on fake news for their news source," he said. "I find that exciting and equally horrifying."

Chodikoff, Bleyer's colleague on the show, said he assisted writers with research while maintaining his integrity as a fake journalist.

A political science major at Duke, Chodikoff now spends his work days watching C-Span, briefing Congressional records and reading major newspaper articles for the show.

When asked if he thinks his work is influential, Chodikoff said, "I just want to change the minds of all the girls that have dumped me."

Approximately 100 people attended the panel discussion, including a significant number of Duke graduate students and local residents.

Andreas Franz, a media fellow from Germany, said he found the event to be entertaining and funny. He compared it to German media.

"The quality and the satire in the United States on that level is really amazing," he said.

Such positive response was appreciated by Kallaugher.

"I want to say how great it is as a satirist to see you guys laughing," he said.

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