Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

We watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central on Tuesday night, specifically to see guest, Senator John Kerry. The Daily Show is an amazingly delightful and refreshing change of pace from watching the other long list of news shows we watch practically daily.

Jon Stewart helps us laugh at what is sometimes too deadly serious on other news shows. We have added The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to our "must see" daily news. Tx Jon and tx to Cheri and Sam for pointing us in this direction.

Here is an article on the John Kerry appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Jokesters now the go-to guys for U.S. candidates

By JOHN DOYLE Thursday, August 26, 2004

John Kerry can't do comedy. The world kind of knew that already, but Kerry can do bemused politician. This talent might help him in his television appearances. It is unlikely to help him change the minds of rabid Republicans who hate his stinking guts.

The Kerry-hatred went up a few notches recently and that's why Kerry made a surprise appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Tuesday night. The Daily Show (seen in Canada on CTV, weeknights at 12:05 a.m.) is an American cable show, airing on Comedy Central, which spoofs the news.

It looks like a news program, with its grand opening music signalling puffed-up commentary about important issues. But what follows in the show is drenched in irony. It simultaneously sends up TV news programs and current events. A good deal of its comedy is very childish. Bizarrely, it has become one of the most important programs on American television.

A lot of the American coverage of Kerry's appearance on The Daily Show compared it with Bill Clinton's appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show 12 years ago. In that appearance, Clinton played the saxophone and introduced the Elvis side of his personality. It worked wonders for his appeal. Since then, according to cliché, every American politician needs to appear on late-night TV in order to show his or her loose and funny side.

But Kerry's appearance was not about illuminating his goofy side. It was about establishing his integrity. The TV gig, which was only announced on Tuesday morning, was an important strategic move. He needed an opportunity to counter those people who claim that he exaggerated and lied about his service in Vietnam.

"I watch a lot of the cable news shows," Jon Stewart began, "so I understand that you were never in Vietnam."

"That's what I understand too, but I'm trying to find out what happened," Kerry deadpanned in response.

In the few minutes that Kerry was on The Daily Show, other subjects came up, but that exchange was the most important. And it goes it the heart of the craziness of the American political culture today. The presidential election is now less about the candidates than it is about the media who cover them. Fox News, the most popular cable news channel, has savaged Kerry. In order to challenge the perception that he lied and exaggerated, Kerry chose to appear on a comedy program that spoofs the news. It was actually designed to give him some integrity.

In the rest of the pseudo-interview, Jon Stewart stuck to his mockery of the American media, both print and television, that supports George W. Bush and relentlessly attacks Kerry.

"Are you the number one most liberal senator in the Senate?" he barked at Kerry. The candidate's answer was a bemused, "No."

As Stewart continued in his ironic tone, Kerry tried to deliver some simple statements about his platform and his criticisms of Bush. Twice, he succeeded. "Most Americans would like to have an intelligent conversation about the issues," he said to cheers from the studio audience. Later, speaking to the touchiest issue in the campaign, Kerry managed to get off a round of indignation about the war with Iraq. "You don't go to war because you want to," he said. "You go to war because you have to." The cheering that greeted that statement was cut off as the show went to a commercial.

After that, the chat, as wacky as it had been, went further into ridiculousness. There was an incomprehensible exchange about oil. Kerry then closed with a cutesy comment about the rigours of political campaigning. "You'd be amazed at the number of people who want to introduce themselves to you in the men's room. It's the most bizarre part of this entire thing." Then Kerry left the show with the trademark military salute.

Kerry is wrong about that. The "most bizarre part of this entire thing" is his need to appear on a spoof of the news to answer serious charges against him and get his message out. That tells you something about the insanity that has gripped the American media. Imagine if the leader of a Canadian political party decided, in the middle of an election campaign, to ignore Peter Mansbridge, Lloyd Robertson and Kevin Newman, and only do an appearance on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

Kerry needed to appear on The Daily Show because the American media itself has become ridiculous and he needs the endorsement of the jokers, not political pundits. The cable news shows that Jon Stewart mocks have become absurdly partisan. The print press is going through a period of self-flagellation as newspaper after newspaper apologizes and backtracks on its initial coverage of the need to go to war with Iraq.

There is no longer a mainstream media in the United States. Every outlet postures and preens. Comedy is now as important as political commentary. Only the jokers have integrity.

The last thing Kerry said, as he left The Daily Show, was a remark to Stewart. He said, "You do a great job." In that, Kerry was correct. It's sad, but true.

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