Now we are back to satire and our mentor: P.G. Wodehouse.
During WWII many British citizens were in direct danger — in the bombings of London like our recent mentor Virginia Woolf, and those abroad in Europe when Germany came a-knockin’. Like our current mentor P.G. Wodehouse, who was in France when the Nazis rolled through. Wodehouse and his wife were rounded up, separated, and put through various prisons (camps).
Right after his release, Wodehouse accepted an invitation to broadcast to his fans that he was okay. He proceeded to make a few broadcasts, on Berlin’s airwaves — and was immediately villified.
Why? Because Wodehouse didn’t sit down at the microphone and condemn the Nazis, at least not in a direct way–he was on German broadcasts, after all. In his typical fashion, Wodehouse broadcasted satirically. As we’ve already seen with our New Yorker example, satire walks a fine line. While an election year may seem a pretty powder-keg moment to today’s audience, imagine a time of war. And not only war: World War II. The biggest war the world has ever seen. The most dangerous time for millions.
I’m speaking pretty generally here. Anything that might remotely be construed to make fun of such tragedy is questionable, at the very least. Off the top of my head I can think of maybe one other topic that’s still super off limits–the exploitation of children. (Earlier this year I thought that rape was off the table too–but the Daily Show went to town on the re-definition of rape and apparently some sensitive subjects can be made funny with the right touch….)