Don't Look Up humour and the climate crisis NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX

Can humour help tackle the climate crisis?

Comedy is being used by everyone from filmmakers to brands to combat climate doomism. But could it also prove to be a more effective way of inspiring action than traditional climate campaigns?

Climate change is a tough subject for any piece of entertainment, let alone a satire. But director, producer, and comedian Adam McKay was more than willing to take on the challenge with his most recent film, Don’t Look Up. Inspired by his deepening horror at humanity’s response (or lack thereof) to the climate crisis, the Netflix film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two astronomers who discover that a comet is set to destroy earth in just six months’ time. The rest of the world aren’t as eager to learn about their fate, however, as summed up by Meryl Streep’s fittingly chaotic US President and her campaign slogan: Don’t Look Up.

McKay first made a name for himself writing for Saturday Night Live and making goofy noughties comedies such as Step Brothers and Anchorman, but has increasingly navigated more contentious material in his recent work – ranging from the financial crisis with The Big Short to the underbelly of US politics in Dick Cheney biopic Vice. One of the most interesting elements of his take on climate change was just how polarising the response to it was, Don’t Look Up’s co-producer and regular McKay collaborator, Staci Roberts-Steele, tells CR.

“It’s funny because we definitely got a little bit of backlash from the critics initially, but a lot of the people that we made the film for, they were the ones who were fans of the film,” she says. “We had climate scientists reaching out, we had people working in the climate movement saying, finally someone is explaining how we’re feeling. A couple of years later and climate is very much a part of everyday conversation, but it was interesting seeing these people who had not really commented on climate change before finally talking about it.”