I have a theory that sometimes you don’t know just how much you appreciate something until it’s gone, such as when you finish a bar of chocolate and hate that there is none left.
I was reminded of that theory last week when The Daily Show had no new episodes for a week, showing re-runs instead. I’ve applauded the wit of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers before, both when reviewing their book and in recapping the show.
What’s the saying about absence making the heart grow fonder? Well, the absence of The Daily Show made my body deficient in wit and needed laughs. It’s a daily staple of humor, as Johnny Carson famously was for many people for decades. Fortunately I had conveniently ordered, via Netflix, the three-DVD set from The Daily Show’s coverage of the 2004 election: Indecision 2004. So while there were no new episodes on I could still watch some of the best political commentary around.
The DVDs proved what I have been telling everyone I know for years: Stewart and his writers and correspondents are funnier, sharper, and more clever than any other show talking about the news. I am going to give a few examples from the third disc.
But first I want to mention that the first two DVDs cover the Democratic and the Republican conventions. If you, like me, are sick of reading news coverage about an election that is still more than one year away then these DVDs provide relief of a sort as they remind you just how funny and absurd much of this election process is.
Having laughed a bit about the political process somehow makes reading the news more palatable. Plus I’ve started reading the newspaper while at a bar and I find that helps make some sense of world and political news. But I digress…
My three favorite parts of the third disk:
1. The footage of Sen. John Edwards announcing, on The Daily Show, that he is running for the presidency. Edwards had promised he would make that announcement on the show when he made a decision on whether to run. Stewart then said there is something important he needs to tell Edwards.
“We’re a fake show," Stewart said. "So I want you to know that this may not count. It’s sort of like, have you ever been married in Vegas? You may have to do this again… Do you have plans to announce this again in another more professional environment?" Edwards was great about the whole thing and it's a fun bit of The Daily Show history.
Stewart asks for another commitment – if he becomes president and decides to invade a country will he come on the show to announce it? "I kept this stupid promise," Edwards responds, joking.
2. Stephen Colbert interviewing Don King, Al Sharpton, and Bob Graham in a segment titled “Interviews I Can Get,” as in he was able to get an interview with Graham after Graham dropped out of the presidential race. Colbert has gone on, of course, to have his own show, a drop-dead hilarious parody of conservative blowhard Bill O’Reilly’s show.
But in these interviews you can see what makes Colbert hilarious and biting, sometimes at the same time. Between good questions, sharp reactions, and some (I assume) tape editing, the interviews by Colbert are some of the funniest things around. For example, Colbert asks King, who has his own checkered past: “Are you afraid that associating with the Republican Party might bring a taint of corruption to boxing?”
3. Samantha Bee’s coverage of Rock the Vote on a segment titled “Block the Vote.” She points out that during the years Rock The Vote has been around, since 1990, youth voter turnout has been plunging.
Bee asks a Rock the Vote spokeswoman the tough questions, such as if they really want to encourage voting why do they publicize the support of such artists as Hootie and the Bluefish, Elton John, and Coolio. “Coolio was cool at one point,” the spokeswoman responds.
"Donny Osmond?" Bee asks. The spokeswoman says Donnie Osmond has many fans. “Name one,” Bee says. The woman thinks for a minute and asks Bee if maybe she is a fan. She just shakes her head no.
The whole piece is just hilarious.