Sunday, January 23, 2005

Media Shakedown: Jon Stewart, American Hero?

It's easy to discount Jon Stewart, “fake news” anchorman of The Daily Show, on Comedy Central, because he tells jokes for a living (though even his critics must admit they are brilliant skewering jokes that make pols shake in their booties) but the truth is that the guy is wicked smart, sharp, quick on his feet, and has the ability to make provocative insights.

Critics, mostly on the right, like to make the argument that it’s become a “disturbing phenomenon” that some people take in all of their news from The Daily Show and are therefore left with a skewed, uncontrollably altered view of the news. However, surveys have actually shown that viewers of The Daily Show, on average, have a higher education level and take in more news sources than the average viewer of network news programs.

The Daily Show is an intelligent satire of the news. It's clearly intended to play off the news of the day. However, it's probable that some uninformed people watch it and take it all in at face value, but this is probably true of Saturday Night Live’sWeekend Update, Entertainment Tonight, and many other infotainment shows.

On rumors that Stewart will jump ship from The Daily Show to become part of the newly developing news team at CBS: I think Stewart would do fine as a news anchor, as he has performed admirably sitting in for Larry King. However, I doubt he would want to make the switch as his current format allows him to be a maverick/watchdog/comedian in a new role that he is helping to define. He already makes a very good living, so it's doubtful that a dual-anchor contract would be overwhelming enough to sway him. My guess is that he stays put and continues to define his unique position in American politics and comedy.

Finally, on charges that Stewart is a blatant liberal pushing a liberal agenda: he and The Daily Show are as hard on the left as on the right. It's in his interest to do so as it lends him the credibility he holds and deserves as an equal opportunity political satirist.

DB Note: If you haven’t heard about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book), do yourself a favor and leaf through it the next time you’re at a book store. Every page holds at least one big laugh, which is really an incredible feat to pull off.

5 comments:

Angela Chen Shui said...

I agree... Jon has found his sweet spot... why move now?

Eric Berlin said...

I agree -- I think Stewart knows how good he has it and knows he's in a place where he can do his best work and have maximum impact for whatever statement(s) he's trying to push about the hypocrisy and stuffiness of politicians, celebrities, the media, etc.

Plus, he's having a great time and making a great living. Why mess with that?

The Sore Loser said...

I bet that even if someone didn't see any other media source besides the Daily Show he would still be more informed than if he only watched Fox News. In an era of mass propaganda and low journalistic integrity, only the comedians can tell the truth.

I would love to see some reporter give a current events pop quiz to people who only watch Fox and people who only watch the Daily Show.

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Eric Berlin said...

Mr. TSL - I would like to see the results of such an experiment.

You're not implying that followers of one political party are brighter than another though, are you?

Red - Thanks very much, welcome aboard.