Satirical humour increasingly plays a part in the public sphere, particularly in anglophone countries, and quite remarkably so during Ireland's economic crash. While this satire is ostensibly and avowedly critical, irreverently satirising figures of authority and hegemonic discourses, it is argued that the consequences of critical comedy do not necessarily emancipate, but do inculcate critical sensibility and a world-image of politics as irredeemably absurd. Drawing on the works of Bakhtin on carnival and satire, Bergson on laughter and Billig on ridicule, a selection of representative mainstream Irish satire is interpreted as not only discursively positing politicians and public figures as corrupt, stupid and self-serving, but also, more importantly, positing the people as gullible and uncritical. Hence, the overall consequence of satire and critical discourse is the diffusion of generalised cynicism which takes the public sphere as a theatre of absurdity. © 2012 Copyright Political Studies Association of Ireland.