Guys, so many people are saying so many things about Jon Stewart’s departure from the Daily Show that I need to chime in. But first I got to say that I’ve barely watched the show. I don’t have tv let alone cable.
Here’s my critique. Calm down. Jon Stewart is not that amazing. Rush Limbaugh does what Stewart tries to do but much better. And Limbaugh has been doing it since the late 80’s. Limbaugh even had a television show that if you watched clips would make you think that the Daily Show looked to for “inspiration.”
Since this is a Christian blog, I need to quickly point out I’m not bashing John Stewart. Yes, he’s wicked talented, wicked smart, and wicked funny. He must have some big plans to leave the show and I wish him the best.
But he’s not this generation’s Mark Twain, or Ambrose Peirce, or Voltaire. You guys need to temper your assessment of him.
My first exposure to Jon Stewart came when I did have a tv because I still lived at my parents’ home. MTV promoted the heck out of his talk show. I still remember that commercial where Howard Stern claimed to be 6’3.” I was just a young teenager at the time. ( so that goes to show you the long lasting influence of tv and why we don’t have cable now.)
I didn’t like his show because it was all about celebrity stuff and cool, inside jokes. Plus the guy was adored by the cool kids who listened to Alternative music, wore Doc Martins, and who made “mixed media” art with a message that would change the world.
These cool kids were mainstream countercultural. They wore Rage Against the Machine t-shirts and drove to school in brand new Toyota Camries their daddies bought them. They never realized how contrived their socially-acceptable rebellion was. And even though I was truly countercultural, to them, i was uncouth.
Then some time later, Comedy Central came out with a show called the Daily Show hosted by Craig Kilborne. It spoofed cable news shows. It was popular among my college classmates who lived off campus and therefore had cable.
One day, Kilborne announced he was leaving the show to host a late night talk show. He announced that Jon Stewart would take his place. He joked that Stewart wouldn’t be as good because he wasn’t blonde.
That was funny because news anchors only care about their hair.
When Stewart assumed his role, I thought he was terrible. The whole premise of the show was that it was supposed to be a news show. Back then, it should have been what the Onion television news is now.
All Steward did was deliver his regular standup routine while sitting down and wearing a suit. The whole news show premise was lost. Stewart just yelled, slapped the table, made faces, all while bitterly ridiculing people. That’s not news. That’s not even fake news!
It bothered me that the Daily Show became way more popular under Stewart. The show really became the Jon Stewart Show. Why bother with the whole news show routine when it became like any late night talk show but in the early evening?
Sure, the Daily Show kept some vestige of a fake news. Take for example the actor Steven Colbert, who played a fake conservative pundit. And that’s the clue as to why the show exploded into a cultural phenomenon.
Consider what Rush Limbaugh does. He comments on the news using humor. But does Limbaugh have an actor play a caricature of a liberal so all we conservatives can laugh at him? No! He doesn’t need one. Every day there are numerous sound bites of actual liberals doing and saying things in real life that we can laugh at.
But Jon Stewart, like all liberals, wages a war against straw men. This requires an actor to play out that part. They just cannot find enough actual material from racist, anti-science, homeschooling Republicans.
And that’s why liberals tune in. They need to reinforce their delusional perspective of reality. Anyone who loves America and votes for George Bush deserves to be pilloried and Jon Stewart will do that to Steven Colbert for you.
And his sloppy, non-news delivery added to that effect.
Again, consider Rush Limbaugh in comparison. He all by himself hosts a three hour radio show every week day. He has no visual aids, co-hosts, or teams of writers and interns. What he does is explain things. He makes the complex understandable through a coherent thought process.
Jon Stewart does not explain things. He takes one minute to set up a story. He does this with a small semblance of a news anchor. Then they play a clip of George Bush saying something. Then they cut to Jon Stewart with a sardonic grimace on his face. The audience cracks up. Stewart throws his pen behind him, thumps his hands on the news desk and says, “I give up.”
Or, “Give me a break.”
Or, “Uhh, weapons of mass destruction? Huh?!”
That one sentence punch line causes the studio audience to double over in laughter. It’s not an explanation of an idea. In fact, it’s a non sequitur.
But to his huge audience, it’s not what he says or even if the jokes make sense. It’s the ridicule in his voice, the brashness in his smirk, and the temerity of his wild gesticulations. Liberals tune into Jon Stewart for validation. They need reassurance that even though every thing they believe in is failing, that someone is going to still make fun of conservative boogymen.
You see, those kids who ironed their jeans and spit shined their Doc Martins back in the 90’s have grown up now. They come home from their professional job to their live in girlfriend and her two dogs and they need to know that they are still raging against the machine.
John Stewart tells them who the machine is now, even if he has an actor play a caricature of it. And he rages. Oh boy, he rages. But in a funny way. You can scoff together with him.
These cool kids still fail to see how contrived their rebellion is. What countercultural icon receives well wishes from the White House spokesman? Former President Bill Clinton and Massachusetts senator Elizibeth Warren tweeted out well-wishes for Jon Stewart. Can we really pretend that he’s a comedic rebel?