Jeb Bush as a Noodle: The Seed of “American Affair”


By Jennie Kamin | @VajennieMonolog

Many news cycles ago, back when over a dozen Republican candidates were vying to save the party, I was working in entertainment and applying to journalism school with the dream of doing something media-related to impact the election: something sophisticated, like a cartoon depicting Jeb Bush as a noodle. That was the seed of The American Affair.

When I got to Columbia, I realized it was my chance to collaborate with the talented and diverse people here to make the satire show a reality.So I brought it up with a few people in my class. To my surprise, they were into it. They were more than just into it, actually. People like Heba Elorbany, a documentary student with a non-profit business background, asked, “Hey, can I organize this with you?” The group took it and ran.

Our resulting first episode focused on the third party candidates and their impact on this election—a topic, might I add, John Oliver followed suit in investigating in October. In the past month, we have recapped the presidential and vice presidential debates, publicized the deadline for voter registration and journeyed to Philly in search of the swing vote, resulting in 42,000 views on Facebook.

Why are we talking Facebook views? Simply put, because Silicon Valley is petty as hell. Facebook goes out of its way to minimize Google and Twitter, so YouTube videos do not get the same views on Facebook as videos uploaded directly to the platform (YouTube is owned by Google). Our collective experiences have shown that Facebook is pushing native video, especially live video; and that’s what we’re providing.

The blood, sweat and tears poured into this project in between finals and documentary shoots is bottled from performers like Eva Andersen—you may recognize the YouTube star from her Sarah Palin impersonation at a McCain rally eight years ago, which made it onto the Rachel Maddow Show —and accomplished editors like Tony Lin, an author and filmmaker who claims to be 27, but was actually born 600 years ago in Rivendell. The list goes on. I am in awe of these people. Together, our group of 15 hailing from six countries has made a commitment to create impactful comedy grounded in hard journalism, data and investigative research.

There’s a stereotype that millennials prefer taking quizzes that will reveal their spirit-Teletubbies to picking up the Times. (By the way, you should know that our anchor Jon Allsop was in two episodes of Teletubbies.)

However, according to studies like this one from Pew Research, millennials are tuning in—regularly—to satirical news shows, and they’re doing so online. The Pew survey found that the online American audience for the Daily Show is on par with USA Today the Huffington Post; what’s more, they’re spending more time there.

We’re not claiming that satire will replace hard news, but it does have a place in social commentary, and an increasingly important one.That’s why we do what we do. That and because it’s fun.

While The American Affair began as a guerrilla operation without the university’s recognition, we are no longer Columbia’s bastard child: The school graciously granted us affiliation last month. In celebration, my brilliant colleagues are putting together our Election Live Show, showing Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. The musical special will be open to the public in the Stabile Center in Pulitzer Hall and on Facebook Live. Join us as we hurtle together to the conclusion of this raucous ride to America’s next presidency.

Jennie Kamin is a member of the Columbia Journalism School’s Class of 2017. She can be reached at Rebecca Schuetz, CJS ’17, contributed to writing this blog.