The Publishing Post
Politics and Humour
By Alexandra Constable, Hayley Cadel, Brittany Holness, Maisie Clarke and Bianca Scasserra
There is no doubt that the past few years have been turbulent and eventful in global politics. From Trump to Brexit to Megxit, the world has undergone several colossal changes in the political sphere. It is no surprise that this social and political turmoil has been reflected in the publishing industry, with a number of writers and politicians taking to the page to highlight the supposed humour in all of this change. Whether it be parodies, satirical novels, journalism or a manifesto of tweets, an emerging trend of self-professed humorous political content is sweeping through the publishing world.
The first offenders of the political reduction come in the form of parodies and satire. There are many different variations of this theme that are rife in the existing publishing market. Its lighter and humorous tone allows for a more superficial outlook amidst the tumultuous noise of change and political frenzy. Writers within the publishing sphere, those primarily with comical genes, have taken advantage of such change to pen novels that are exaggerated for their readers' entertainment. Although some of its context has been inflated, the substance of these caricatured books is allegedly borne from factual accounts. The contentious launch of Prince Harry’s non-fiction book, Spare was laid bare for public dissection. Not to mention, Bruno Vincent’s impending satirical release Spare Us: A Harrody due to be published on 23 April. It follows Prince Harry’s memoir told in a comedic voice, intending to mock the content of the original piece and give the narrative a more “jovial” feel. The comedic assault doesn’t stop there; a political figure at the centre of many media storms was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A tenure blighted by a series of controversial decisions and duplicity, he became the opportune candidate for humorous parodies. Notable inclusions are from Iain Hollingshead, who authored the political satire, Boris Johnson: The Neverending Tory: The Adventure Where You Take Back Control offering readers a chance to take up the lofty mantle held by Mr. Johnson and embark on their own quest to become “World King.”
Twitter often acts as the home for political commentary, with many choosing it as a platform to air opinions, using the character limit to create sound bites. With many Twitter users using the platform for this purpose, it comes as little surprise that satirical books have been created from this content. One example is John Bull, who had a thread of his tweets go viral, penned The Brexit Tapes. Styled as a “Brexitorian” account, set in the year 3563, Bull imagines the discovery of the first cache of secret tapes of conversations held in Westminster. These tapes document the “lost years” from the Brexit Referendum to the Second Dark Age, to give a clear picture of the events which led up to the Civil War which followed. Published by the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound, it shows a clear market interest in ideas distilled in a Twitter thread and expanded upon in book form, and the potential overlap between the two.
Journalists have also joined this upsurge of parody and humour. A great example of this is Marina Hyde’s What Just Happened: Dispatches from Turbulent Times. Released in October 2022, Hyde weaves her way through the past six years, poking fun at all of the characters who take centre stage in the theatrics of the British government. Despite this exploration of the political sphere through satire-driven analysis, Hyde’s journalistic talent is the driving force that helps to wickedly bolster this work from a collection of pinpoint jokes to a grounded and witty reflection of the chaos of recent years. Peter Conrad at The Guardian characterises Hyde as “lethally funny” and it is clear through the popular reception of the book that many feel the same. Hyde’s book is an example of how comedy can relieve the gloom of modern politics whilst never undermining the rightful criticisms of these conditions. Potentially, the popularity of this is due to the sheer intensity of “gloom” British people have had to endure recently, and as true Brits, the best way to tackle this is through derision and mockery.
Overall, with the massive changes in the political industry amassing globally, there should be some expectation that the publishing industry would not only reflect the events occurring but provide a form of comedic relief – though the tasteful nature of these books is potentially questionable. In the surge to produce titles and publish other political content, like those emphasised in this article, it is evident that there is an emergence of various types of media reflecting politics in some way. It is clear that this trend is not new, as this has been the outcome for years in the publishing industry; books acting as a clear indicator of political strife in one way or another. With every great political shift, there will be content to reflect this change, as seen in books like Animal Farm, which paralleled the Russian Revolution. For the foreseeable future, with the constantly changing political sphere, this trend will likely remain.