The Daily Show and “real news”

Jon Stewart constantly shoots down anyone who talks about The Daily Show being anything at all like the news and opinion blended shows that he mocks on cable news, yet he clearly takes policy seriously and has serious points he wants desperately to get across to his viewers. This riding of the fence allows Stewart to do the old, as HotAir calls it,”clown nose on, clown nose off”, meaning that he uses the “hey man, I’m not just a comedian, I’m a person with ideas” bully pulpit yet deflects any criticism by shrugging “hey  man, I’m just a comedian”. Very slick. and It’s working.

This leaves the question: is The Daily Show a comedy show that uses news material as its foundation? Or is it a news show that utilizes comedy? The distinction is important, as one allows leeway while the other demands accuracy and honesty. When Stewart plays a montage of quotes out of context, is it to make a joke? or is it to make a serious criticism in a humorous way? His liberal viewers think the latter..

The “teabagger” bit comes at the very beginning of this longer clip, which is itself just the last part of a five-segment interview Maddow did with Stewart yesterday. It’s worth watching all nine minutes, as they touch on Stewart’s “clown nose off, clown nose on” style and whether maybe Maddow should be less of a clown herself. The one place where she nails him, I think, is when he insists that news hosts like her, Olby, O’Reilly, etc, are players on the field whereas he’s just a fan in the stands, cheering or heckling as necessary. That is to say, they’re the media and he’s a media critic, and just as we don’t hold Roger Ebert to the same standards as the films he reviews, we shouldn’t measure Stewart and Maddow by the same yardstick. The problem with that analogy, of course, is that (a) The Daily Show’s criticism is presented in the same format as the material it’s satirizing, and (b) according to some viewers, especially younger ones, it does a better job of delivering the news in a less partisan fashion than the crap on the news nets. Imagine if, instead of writing a column, Roger Ebert reviewed films by directing video commentaries with a $100 million budget and plenty of F/X. That’s more like what “The Daily Show” does. Would it be fair to judge such “commentaries” as films in their own right? Sure. Which is why TDS and its comparatively much more buffoonish quasi-competitors like “Countdown” are increasingly lumped together.

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