How to read satire and humor (and how to talk about it)

What to look for when reading and analyzing pieces

Some questions to consider as you dig into your piece, a colleague's piece, or your favorite writer's published piece.

  • What is the author’s point of view?
  • What is the character’s point of view? Is it different than the author's?
  • What is the comedic premise of the piece? What makes it unique or exaggerated?
  • What or who is the target? Who or what is being criticized?
  • What is the form? Is it a list, quotes, anecdotes, recipe, speech, etc.?
  • What is the length? Should it be shorter? Should more ideas be explored?
  • What is the tone?
  • What is the voice?
  • Is it parodying a specific person, publication, trope, etc.?

Terms to know

New to satire and just learning the language? No problem, we got you!
  • Satire – The comedy of outrage. Using humor and wit to criticize or shine a light on the target of the piece: a person, institution, organization, etc.
  • Humor - Writing that intends to be funny, heightens, and makes people laugh.
  • Parody – Imitating a style, voice, genre, etc. and exaggerating, undercutting, inverting it for comedic effect.
  • Target – The person, institution, organization, etc. being criticized or commented on in a piece. Typically something above you, i.e. more powerful or important.
  • Point of View – What the author or character the piece is written by is saying about a topic or target through a piece. Tells the reader what the author think about the topic they’re addressing, what their opinions and emotions are about it. Sometimes this is a way to call for action.
  • Comedic Premise – The unusual or unique perspective or angle on an idea. Typically exaggerated or heightened to differentiate from reality for comedic effect.
  • Mapping – Putting the known qualities of one situation/thing/dynamic onto another.