The daily show, and its ilk... Why they are actually insightful, the veil of comedy allows one to say that which could not be said other wise. In this it is much like (good) science fiction, where the slight haze of irreality takes the culpability away from the individual, they can metaphorically shrug at their critics, and claim "but it is only fiction" or "it is only comedy". It allows the speaker to transcend societal mores and norms briefly, and state their real opinion.
More esoterically this "masking" might, in part, explain the power of art, literature and poetry. But creating "just art" it allows us to explore our inner nature in a world where such explorations are deemed taboo. In fictive pursuits we can express the unsavory aspects of our natures (and thus human nature) in a public forum without crossing cultural lines. It allows us to step back from ourselves, to briefly escape our morality and introspection, and to divorce ourselves from our own contents.
There is some odd human need to be expressive, we need to "let it out", even when society dictates that certain aspects should be private. What is it about publicness that leads to a feeling of catharsis? Why is self-expression a human necessity?
I struggle with my old idea of self-creation here, where we express to others what we want to be, and they express to us what we are (both ontic processes, and not metaphorical). It seems to break down at artistic expression, if it indeed is an exploration of inner landscapes. Such an exploration precludes projections, it betrays actual pre-existing contents of the self. Perhaps this leads one to the conclusion that humanity is only knowable through its art and creations, through the safe-mirrors of who we actually are.
Sadly (in a sense) this makes humanity unknowable, there is always going to be mystery to who we actually are. I say this because the viewing of the arts is interpretive, we interpret it in view of our self-ness. We use it as a mirror to reflect our inexpressible inner nature. In a sense we make it our own. Art for the artist exists within context of the self, once, though, in the World this art loses that individual context, and thus the viewer (or interpreter) of the work must supply that context of self-ness subjectively.
In acts of practical art (engineering, industrial design) this context can be taken as the task the work performs, but in more esoteric arts this contextualization becomes more difficult. What purpose does the novel, the painting, the symphony serve? It is expression itself, that gives them purpose. And this begs the previous question, what is the purpose of expression?
Why is it human nature to inflict the "I" upon the world?
[note: I am currently entertaining the idea of drafting co-editor/writers to this site, so if anyone would be interesting in writing here please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Thanks.]