John Stewart: When Comedians Start Asking the Tough Questions

John_stewart_2When Bill Moy­ers returned to PBS two weeks ago, his first pro­gram took a care­ful look at how the main­stream media has fall­en down on the job when it comes to ask­ing tough ques­tions to politi­cians. Giv­en this start­ing point, it seemed log­i­cal for Moy­ers to speak next (iTunesFeed) with John Stew­art, host of The Dai­ly Show. That’s because adver­sar­i­al jour­nal­ism is now found more read­i­ly on Com­e­dy Cen­tral than on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc. The inter­view with Stew­art, which is quite sub­stan­tive and worth a lis­ten, makes ref­er­ence to John McCain’s recent appear­ance on The Dai­ly Show and also to Steven Col­bert’s famous/infamous roast of Pres­i­dent Bush in 2006. You can watch both below.

Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion shows have been sat­i­riz­ing politi­cians for a long time. That’s not new. But what’s new with Stew­art is that he’s upend­ing the whole point of tele­vi­sion satire. Whether you look at Jay Leno’s tame humor, or the more bit­ing humor of Sat­ur­day Night Live, the point of the satire has always been to get a laugh. For Stew­art, some­thing else is going on. Watch the McCain inter­view and you see that the joke is essen­tial­ly a prop, a con­ve­nient means of get­ting at some­thing much more seri­ous, a way of hav­ing a blunt, no non­sense con­ver­sa­tion, pre­cise­ly the kind of con­ver­sa­tion that the main­stream media has been large­ly unwill­ing, if not down­right afraid, to have with our lead­ers.

McCain on TDS

Col­bert Bush Roast

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