There is only one television show I watch regularly — The Daily Show. There are some people who get freaked out at the studies suggesting a growing number of Americans get their news from this show rather than “regular” television news. I think those people are over-reacting.
This show manages to do a better job of saying what is really going on in this country than the hacks over at CNN and Fox and especially those doing local television broadcasts.
I especially like it when the show combs through footage to show a person’s lies and hypocrisy, for example when Vice-President Dick Cheney denied saying something and the show showed a clip of him saying exactly what he denied saying.
So I want to say three things about Stewart before talking about Monday’s show:
First, good job on the Oscars. While some think Billy Crystal would have done a better job, I think Stewart’s jokes were spot on. He was funnier than Crystal has been. Stewart seemed a little unsure of himself at first but that was probably because he is used to working with a very different audience instead of mocking the very people he was standing before.
Second, I loved that Stewart went off on Tucker Carlson back in October. I just re-read the transcript and Stewart really held his own in pointing out how bad shows like Crossfire are for America. And when Carlson tried to compare the two shows, Stewart asked if a “news analysis” show should really be looking for cues from a comedy show. I think some of Stewart’s critics are jealous of his popularity and wit, which were in clear evidence during the show’s campaign coverage.
Third, Stewart’s satire – which goes over the heads of some viewers and critics – was perfect and timely after Katrina. At the time I noted that there were many in the media who were doing a better job than usual covering the important stories. But there was also a need for humor to be injected into the conversation and Stewart did exactly that.
It reminded me of how, after the September 11 attacks, humor on television essentially stopped for a few days and people wondered if irony and sarcasm were dead. And then The Onion – the great satirical web site – published its issue about September 11, with headlines like “U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We’re At War With” and “God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule.”
People began, slowly, to laugh again.
Post-Katrina, not only did Stewart manage to help us laugh, but he also showed anger, which is not something we usually see from him. But it was quite appropriate as he vented the outrage many of us felt about how so-called leaders were playing political games while people’s lives were at stake.
Enough about the past, let’s talk about Monday’s show.
During the news section, Stewart got off a few decent jokes about Sharon Stone and President Bush. But his funniest comments were about that always hilarious topic of the death of a mass murderer. Slobodan Milosevic, also known by some as Slobo, who died Saturday.
Jon said he was asked all day: “Slobo died. You going to make some jokes?” To which Stewart said he replied, “Too soon. Don’t you think we need some time to heal?”
A few seconds later Stewart said, “It feels weird to celebrate Slobo’s death.” Dramatic pause. “And yet, not.”
This is where I think Stewart is at his best – injecting some levity and a reality check to a serious issue, like Slobo’s death.
Stewart’s interview was interesting in that he seemed to have the goal of frustrating author Eric Burns by acting like he could not tell the difference between Samuel Adams, the colonial leader of America, and Samuel Adams, the beer-maker.
I’m still figuring out Stewart as an interviewer. I think he is smarter than he lets on but will pretend to be an idiot to make a joke. He seem torn between asking an intelligent question and going for the easy laugh.
Overall, this was one of Stewart’s weaker shows. I know he can do better so I’ll assume it was just an off day and he was so shaken by Slobo’s death that it affected the show.
Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
The Daily Show airs on weekdays at 11 p.m., EST.