Are Comedians America’s Great Public Intellectuals?

Clowns Have Always Served as the Conscience of the Nation—At Their Peril and Maybe Ours, Too

One of Shakespeare’s conceits is the wisdom of clowns. From Feste in Twelfth Night to the Fool in King Lear, they speak truth to power, but tell it slant and do so at their peril.

The stabbing last month of Salman Rushdie, who lived under threat of a decades-long fatwa for his comedic novel, The Satanic Verses, and Will Smith’s Oscars stage assault on Chris Rock remind us that satire is risky business: One person’s hilarity is another’s sacrilege. Satirists, comics, and fools are ideological pathfinders, risking their reputations, and sometimes …

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American Comedians Are Finally Getting Afghanistan Right | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

American Comedians Are Finally Getting Afghanistan Right

After Two Decades of Anti-Muslim Jokes and a Disastrous War, Humor Is Succeeding Where Politics Has Failed

A joke can be the best way to present real-life issues. Comedians can poke fun at the absurdity of the human condition, even take on topics that feel taboo—like America’s …

Queen Elizabeth II Knew the Virtues of Being Vanilla | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Queen Elizabeth II Knew the Virtues of Being Vanilla

Not Offering an Opinion Was Key to the Monarch’s Success—A Strategy Her Son Would Do Well to Embrace

If the British monarchy is to survive, it needs someone who is as bland as Queen Elizabeth II.

You would look in vain for any controversial statements made by the queen …

| Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Hot Girl Summer Is a Utopian Notion

We’ll Never Reach Its Coconut-Scented Siren Call, But That Shouldn’t Stop Us From Trying

Here in Southern California, the Santa Ana winds are blowing, summoning us back to school, back to our routines, back to our lives.

The potential that once hung so heady in …

Will California Get SMART About Mass Transit? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Will California Get SMART About Mass Transit?

A New Train Could Help Battle Climate Change, Serve Expanding Metro Areas, and Create a Northern California Mega-Region

If this train is so SMART, why can’t I find it?

That’s the question I asked myself in Larkspur, in Marin County, after arriving on the ferry from San Francisco one …