A note to readers: I'm switching from doing daily reviews of this show to a weekly review, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the week's episodes.
Often the weakest parts of television shows hosted by comedians are the interview segments. Many talk show hosts clearly don't even bother reading the book of the author they are interviewing. Not Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show. He does his homework and it shows. While he has been accused of throwing a few softballs at liberal politicians, he generally asks some good thoughtful questions. It used to be that his guests were clearly surprised he even read the books, let alone had smart questions to ask about them. Now it seems to be at the point where the guests assume he is familiar with the books - which he clearly is - and are ready for him to ask good questions, as opposed to having scripted questions and answers like on some shows.
This week, some of his interviews were among the best parts of the show. The interviews let Stewart's intelligence and quick wit show clearly.
The first 10 minutes
Usually the first 10 minutes are the strongest part of this show. It is during this time that Stewart riffs on a few news items, often providing amusing footage or wordplay to story. He then goes to a correspondent who does their own piece. This week, though, the first 10 minutes were underwhelming. Some of his jokes just fell flat. Look, for example, at his take on the news announced last week about the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Lee Raymond. Not only did Raymond get $140 million in 2005 as compensation (including cash, stock, options and a pension plan), but Raymond is now entitled to stock, options, and long-term compensation worth at least another $258 million. This is disturbing on many levels: The height of greed, the rich getting richer, etc.
So what does Stewart do with this — well — rich material? He makes fun of Raymond's jowls. "Some would say his face is the embodiment of greed run amok. Although it does have its admirers — I suggest you check out jowlbangers.com," Stewart said. The jowls are needed for storage, Stewart explained: He keeps a Honus Wagner baseball card and other stuff in his jowls. "Good luck on your retirement, Mr. Raymond. Here is hoping you get to spend some quality time with your jowls," Stewart said. There was some crowd laughter but that is because he reached for the easy sexual joke. I wanted to see Stewart stick it to this man and instead he makes fun of his jowls? Come on, Stewart can do better than that.