In the park where I was walking one morning a few days ago, I found myself in conversation with two strangers who were near my age. The talk turned to politics and although they were interested, their lack of knowledge surprised me.
Jay Leno’s name came up and I asked if they watch The Daily Show. They both looked blank for a moment. Maybe they thought I was nuts because after an awkward pause, one asked what a comedy show had to do with federal debt.
It has been said that many young people get their news mostly from Jon Stewart and if that is so, they are better informed and have a deeper understanding of issues and current events than people who are reading newspapers or watching network and cable news – and certainly better than those two women in the park.
In the days since I posted a brilliant segment from The Daily Show last Saturday, it has continued to roll around in my head and I’ve watched it several more times to analyze how it succeeds so well compared to the same kind of news and commentary from mainstream media.
A big part of the answer is that Stewart provides perspective you don’t often get elsewhere – crucial facts along with historical setting and context – then he skewers his target with a devastatingly funny punchline that brings his argument home.
Do you think that’s easy? There is nothing harder to write than comedy and I frequently burn with jealousy when Stewart and I take on the same political topics from a similar point of view. Mine reek of earnestness; his leave viewers holding their sides in laughter. Which do you think is more potent and convincing?
What makes The Daily Show humor all the funnier is that it grows directly out of the reporting that leads up to it. No comedian (hell, no “legitimate” news show) does better research than Stewart and my envy triples when he finds great material I’ve missed. (Okay, he’s got a staff and I’ve got me, but still.)
The segment at hand, about the Republican/Fox News outrage at billionaire Warren Buffett’s New York Times Op-Ed urging higher taxes on the wealthy, is intricately produced.
First, there are more than 40 video clips and graphics. Starting from Buffet’s Op-Ed, those had to be found, viewed and edited down to their essence. There was, undoubtedly, an equal number that were rejected but still had to be viewed and considered, decisions made.
Someone else was researching facts and statistics. Meanwhile, as the clips were being assembled, writers were working on Stewart’s script, arranging and rearranging the sequence to best effect and crafting the jokes that run throughout the piece.
I’ve done a lot of this kind of television – minus the humor – and that Stewart and his team created this segment in under four days from the date the Op-Ed was published on a Monday until their show was broadcast on Thursday while producing the other shows of that week is awesome. My respect overfloweth.
If you haven’t seen it or want to watch again – it’s worth a re-viewing – here it is.
This has everything – education, illumination, context, perspective – that “real” news programs do not. Sure, it’s partisan (as is every news broadcast) but without the phony pretext to balance of the others.
Among the slew of Emmys The Daily Show has received are a number of prestigious news awards including two Peabodys, but it is billed as a fake news program and Stewart has always insisted that he is a comedian, not a journalist, that the humor is uppermost.
I’m pretty sure that’s what makes it so good and keeps it there but in his commentaries, the reports from his “correspondents” and his interviews, there is more substance than you’ll find in any other given half-hour of “real” news programming.
When, every day, there is so much real-life fakery from the mouths politicians, we need Jon Stewart. He has become an essential source of news and if you don’t watch, you should. You will be enlightened and you will laugh even if, sometimes, bitterly.
(For those of you who have given up television, all shows are posted and can be viewed free the next day at The Daily Show website.)
Stewart doesn’t hit a home run as good as this one every night, but it’s close enough. He and his “reporters,” Samantha Bee, Wyatt Cenac, Jason Jones, Aasif Mandvi, Olivia Munn, John Oliver, Lewis Black, John Hodgman, Al Madrigal, Kristen Schaal and Larry Wilmore really are, as Stewart bills it, the “Best F#@king News Team” on television.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Jealousy