And now, over to our special news correspondent

stephen_colbert.png

Early days for Stephen Colbert

Fake news has probably been around as long as the real thing. Since the time of Mark Twain, who in his younger years posted many hoaxes in newspapers, almost as many writers have satirised the news as have reported on it.

In the 1960's the United States was enjoying light relief (and eerie predictions) from fake bulletins during Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, meanwhile dedicated news satire shows were on the rise in Britain.

That Was The Week That Was showcased some of the most intellectual comedy writers of the time: Peter Cook, Alan Bennett, David Frost, Jonathan Miller (a neurologist and an opera director), Dennis Potter, Frank Muir, John Betjeman, and proto-Python John Cleese.

In the 1970's, Saturday Night Live joined the fake news game with a regular Weekend Update slot (hosts included Chevy Chase, Dennis Miller, Bill Murray, and Norm McDonald) which continues to this day.

Just over ten years ago, Chris Morris, originator of On the Hour and The Day Today, reached his creative peak with the series Brass Eye, which itself climaxed with the unspeakably controversial paedophile special report "Paedogeddon."

But the new high water mark for fake news is undoubtedly The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (since 1999). It comes complete with in-depth coverage, embedded reporters, eye-catching graphics, and top-notch guests (Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Henry Kissinger, Alan Greenspan, John Kerry, Barack Obama, etc.).

Not only does this Comedy Central gem directly compete with news shows from the major U.S. networks (Fox, MSNBC, CNN), but studies have shown that Daily Show viewers are far better informed than rival shows' audiences. Stewart spends more time on major stories, reveals more detail, and offers more context than almost other American news programme. But yes, it's still a comedy show. Watch it here.

In 2005, Daily Show Special Correspondent Stephen Colbert spun off his character into the wildly successful Colbert Report, eventually taking his creation so seriously that he actually ran for president.

While we can't forget the great work done by fake talk show hosts such as Alan Partridge, Ali G., Larry Sanders, and of course Benny Hill, I want to give special mention to Shaun Micallef, the Australian host of The Micallef Program (later 'Programme,' and then 'Pogrom') and anchor of Newstopia.

In addition to being a magazine chat show, the Micallef Program was also a sketch show. Here are some classic Micallef moments of physical and verbal comedy.

::