With money having been tight lately we had to cancel most of our cable account. We would have canceled cable TV entirely but it is actually cheaper to have cable internet if you also have basic (22 channels of nothing) cable TV. Since we don’t have any worthwhile channels on our television I have been downloading programs on iTunes. Of course I have now exceeded the cost of having more complete cable TV so we have to rethink that little plan. The only things I have been regularly purchasing from iTunes were The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Project Runway. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is what I want to address this evening.
There have been many references in the media to the fact that the majority of people in my age bracket (18-34 or some similar random grouping) get their news from Jon Stewart, who is obviously a comedian not a reporter. This statistic has been held up as some sort of proof that my generation doesn’t give a shit about the world. To respond to that critique I’d like to list off the guests who have appeared on The Daily Show in the downloads I haven’t cleared out of my computer yet:
Maggie Gyllenhaal (actress)
Senator Gary Hart
Norm McDonald (comedian)
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the RNC
(former) President Bill Clinton
Ben Affleck (actor)
Johnny Knoxville (actor/comedian)
CC Goldwater, granddaughter of and documentary producer of Barry Goldwater
Pat Buchanan (right wing nut job)
General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan
Al Franken (comedian and pundit)
Former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey
Senator Trent Lott
Dennis Miller (comedian and pundit)
Ian Bremmer, author of “The J Curve” recently featured in The Economist
While there is admittedly some fluff there (Johnny Knoxville for instance) I don’t think you can scoff at some of the other names on that list in terms of importance in the US or even the world. I’ll grant you that these interviews are short and don’t tend to delve very deep into issues, although the Buchanan interview for instance was very interesting and scary, of course. While The Daily Show’s opening monologues and middle segments are deliberately more humorous than the interviews, the issues addressed are often quite serious and relevant. Jon Stewart was probably the only TV personality with a wide audience who could point out publicly that in the midst of the Mark Foley scandal Fox News showed his title as Mark Foley D-FL when in fact the man is a six term Republican congressman.
I am not sure what it says about society that a nightly comedy show is more free and willing to talk about serious issues than traditionally respected news outlets and programs. I could go on a rant about advertising, partisanship, and censorship, but others have done it better than I could or I am interested in doing. I will say that before someone criticizes my generation for getting our info from Comedy Central they need to ask themselves this question “What did Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf say when asked ‘Where is Osama Bin Laden’ on national television?” I know the answer because Jon Stewart asked the question. It may have been asked over Jasmine Tea and Twinkys, but he asked it.