Wendy H Jones - The Writing and Marketing Show - reading and writing satire

Satire is having a big moment. We have satirical novels winning the Mann Booker Prize, satirical TV shows hoovering up the ratings along with satirical movies.

Some politicians are deemed to be too far gone for satire – Trump and Johnson, to name but two – but that doesn’t stop the satirists putting the knife in. And we love it.

But what actually is satire and why should we be reading and writing about it?

This week I was on Wendy H Jones’s Writing and Marketing Show talking about satire in novels, movies and TV.

What has satire ever done for us?

Why did anyone ever bother with satire at all? What (as Monty Python might have asked) has satire ever done for us?

When satirist Peter Cook opened his new comedy venue the Establishment Club in London in 1961, he announced sardonically he’d based it on those wonderful Berlin cabarets “which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the outbreak of the Second World War!”

We satirists like to think that we change things. Cook, never one to turn down a sitting-duck, couldn’t help putting the boot into satire itself.

But was he right? Has satire ever changed anything?

Although the word satire was originally coined in Latin, the first satires were probably written in ancient Egypt, over three thousand years ago – works such as The Satire of the Trades,which tells of a bunch of students who were tired of reading. You can read it for historical interest, though, if it was ever funny, the humour hasn’t travelled too well.

Nowadays we expect satire to make us laugh but much early classical satire either isn’t very funny. Or actually wasn’t intended to be comic at all. It was said that Hipponax, in the 6th century BC, wrote pieces that were so cruel that his victims hanged themselves. Not a lot of jokes there.

On the other hand, the earliest satirist still read and performed is the Greek playwright Aristophanes. And he was and still is very funny indeed.

We covered a great deal of ground, starting with what satire isn’t, what it can’t do, and then what it actually does.

She asked some excellent questions, from what are the best satirical books to read, to how writers can incorporate it into their writing? And is it important that we do so?

Catch the recording while it’s still available

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Get my book on satire – Laughing in the Dark – for free, along with over 80 classic works of satire