Friday, August 7, 2015

Send In the Clowns, Send Out the Ringmaster

It was a most unusual and perhaps somewhat unfortunate confluence of events. 

On one hand, we had an event with the greatest potential for malapropisms, inaccuracies, missteps, bullheadedness, egomania and outright stupidity ever: a Republican Presidential debate with Donald Trump heading up the bill. It presented the epitome of bringing the seriousness of the political process to the depths of comedic absurdity.  

On the other hand, we witnessed the exit of someone who through the absurdity of comedy became the standard bearer of serious truth. We said farewell to Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show.  

One can't help but wonder about the field day Jon would've had with the post-mortem of the prime time Republican debate on Fox News. Donald Trump alone would fill up half of a show but I'm sure there would be a surplus of stupid shit from the rest of the 9 master debaters (giggle!) as well as the remaining GOP field relegated to the kiddie table at 5:00 PM. 

But no, Jon won't have a show anymore to do. If he wants to poke holes in the hypocrisy and the inanity of the debate with wicked one-liners, he'll have to walk around his neighborhood, going door to door with his acerbic 

  • *Ding-dong!*
  • "Er, hello?" 
  • "Jon Stewart here! Last week the Republicans held their first Presidential debate with all the style and finesse of a beauty pageant on Here Comes Honey Boo-boo!"
  • "Jon, what are...?"
  • "Donald Trump announced he would name Ted Nugent as Secretary of Defense and rename the Pentagon the Trumpagon!" 
  • "Jon, it's 11 o'clock!" 
  • "Mike Huckabee declared that President Obama was one of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When asked which one, Huckabee hissed 'the black one'."  
  • "Look, the kids are asleep, Jon..."
  • "Jeb Bush said the economy would improve if more women would keep working right through child birth." 
  • "Good-night, Jon!" 
  • *Door closes*
  • "Scott Walker said he would....hello? Hello?" 

OK, if you think that could've been funnier, well, hell yeah it could have if we still had Jon Stewart and The Daily Show! Oh God! Woe and lamentations unto us in a world without Jon Stewart! 

Jon Stewart would take exception to being described with such a high level of importance. He saw himself as a comedian first and foremost but there in lay the strength of what he did and his contribution to our society. 

There's a saying in comedy: "It's funny because it's true." Because Jon aimed at the funny, he hit the truth more than other so called real news people. Fox News set the tone with a 24 hour channel geared to a specific agenda. There was no news that couldn't be spun towards their point of view. And damned if it didn't work with high ratings and devoted viewers. MSNBC tried to be a liberal counterpart to Fox but liberals can't mimic the lockstep of the conservative movement. And CNN, trying to thread the needle, just looked feckless. Outrageous things were being done by our leaders in politics and business and the media had given up holding them to any account that didn't fit with a preconceived agenda or perspective. 

But comedy doesn't cater to a specific agenda or perspective other than just one: Is it funny? That's all that matters to a comedian. And Jon Stewart saw himself as just that, the comedian whose only job is to make us laugh. But to make us laugh, Jon and The Daily Show gave us something we quite frankly weren't getting anywhere else, the truth. Under Jon Stewart, The Daily Show called bullshit where others in the so called field of journalism seemed leery to go.  

Part of Jon's legacy as he leaves The Daily Show is that he's not the only game in town. A really good example is John Oliver, a former correspondent and sometime fill in anchor for The Daily Show; he's doing extraordinary work on HBO's Last Week Tonight. Like Stewart, John Oliver dismisses the import of what he's doing. He's just trying to be funny; his team is not a group of investigative journalists. Yet look at the work Oliver's staff puts in to preparing the stories that have exposed injustices and inequalities in America and around the world. Yes, these stories are punctuated by humor but the question remains, why is the exposing of these injustices and inequalities left to a comedy show?  

So, Jon Stewart, if you must walk away, know this: you have been funny as hell. But you've made us think and you've shown us the truth in a world covered in lies. Do not underestimate your value and your importance to us who value truth as well as a good laugh.

You will be missed, Jon. I hope we get to see you around somewhere soon. 

And now, Your Moment of Zen.

Be good to one another. I'll be back here with another post tomorrow.  


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