“Satire Is Something that Closes on Saturday Night”

So said George S. Kaufman in 1937. He was referring to Broadway where shows officially open on Friday nights.

He was not referring to North Korea.

There are some who consider the assassination of any head of state a dubious subject for satire. They would say that in the society of satirists this is something that is simply not done. Anybody else is fair game, they say: playwrights, critics, politicians, television anchors, other satirists, but not heads of state.

The explanation for this exemption can be found in Freud’s Totem and Taboo. It has to do with the injunction against father-killing.

That was the last thing on George S. Kaufman’s mind.


2 responses to ““Satire Is Something that Closes on Saturday Night”

  1. There’s a difference between a satire about killing a dictator and an actual assassination. Opinion is divided over which is the more civilized response to tyranny.

    The court jester is a rare exception to the taboo against satirizing the father. Wise tyrants encourage the outlet which humour provides his oppressed subjects because it is preferable to being beheaded or stoned to death.
    Rigid and ironically-challenged tyrants hide behind the “sacredness” of fatherhood, using it as a defense against being toppled or dethroned.

    They invoke “thou shalt honour thy mother and thy mother” quite rigidly, not realizing that sharing power good-humouredly with their children/subjects is much more easily sustained.

  2. I thought I was the only father who good-humouredly allows his children to compose a satire about killing him. But perhaps I am not. I am certainly happily prepared to share power with them.