SPidge Tales

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Jon Stewart Vs. Stephen Colbert

As a Mets fan, it is exciting to see the season the team is having. The Mets are running away with their division, are the heavy favorites to win the NL pennant, and have a realistic to shot to win their first World Championship since that crazy alcoholic coke snortin’ team of 1986 (for a true appreciation of that team and that season, read The Bad Guys Won, by Jeff Pearlman. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060507322/sr=8-3/qid=1153410989/ref=pd_bbs_3/103-2731034-7671857?ie=UTF8 ). The only sad part is that they are doing it without their star player of the past 8 seasons, and the greatest hitting catcher ever, Mike Piazza. Is this another example of the Ewing Theory, where a team gets better when its star player gets injured or leaves via trade, retirement, or free agency? I don’t think so, because for the previous two seasons, Piazza had faded into an average to mediocre player. His replacement, Paul LoDuca, is a veritable upgrade. But, Piazza still has enough name recognition and occasional hints of greatness in him that it does allow us to open up the Ewing Theory as a suggestion.

The Ewing Theory is not just for sports. It can be applied to the world of entertainment, as well. A prime example would be the Daily Show. Host Craig Kilborn (and previously a SportsCenter anchor, as well) left for network TV, taking the Late Late Show on CBS, before fizzling out and giving way to Craig Ferguson. However, Kilborn’s replacement on the Daily Show, Job Stewart, took the show to new levels, winning late night Emmy’s over Leno and Letterman, and giving our nation some serious social satire. Stewart got so big that his “correspondents” began branching out. Steve Carrell had memorable supporting parts in Bruce Almighty (as the tongue twisted news anchor) and in Anchorman as Brick (“Would you like to come to the pants party?”, “I love lamp”, “LOUD NOISES!”), before starring in The 40 Year Old Virgin and the TV show The Office. Lewis Black became even more famous as a comedian. And, Steve Colbert branched out to start his own show The Colbert Report, airing after The Daily Show.

Colbert’s show is a spoof on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor. Colbert plays an ignorant know-it-all right wing pundit. He never comes out character, giving “heat” to his liberal guests, for example, asking Tim Robbins, “why do you hate America?”, and making suggestions such as keeping gay marriage legal in Massachusetts, since it’s a bunch of liberal tree huggers anyways, that way we can keep it contained there and out of the rest of the country. Colbert even stayed in character when he spoke at the White House Correspondents Press Dinner, causing President Bush to become visible uncomfortable as he “praised” him with lines such as, “you never change your mind, sir. Your beliefs are the same Wednesday as they were Monday, no matter what happens on Tuesday.” (To see Colbert’s speech, click here to read the speech: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/4/30/1441/59811 )

This cannot be an example of the Ewing Theory, since Colbert has not taken over for Jon Stewart, but I believe that Colbert has surpassed his mentor in social satire. Jon Stewart has allowed the political events of our nation since the 2004 election to affect him. It may be justifiably so, but the Daily Show has changed. The humor is still there, but Stewart seems to think he is now a political commentator. Take, for example, his appearance on CNN’s Crossfire over a year ago. He mocked Tucker Carlson and company for being talk show fodder and not real journalism. The criticism was probably justified, but Stewart was being himself, not his character from the Daily Show. Stephen Colbert never would left character, remaining his ignorant right wing alter ego, keeping Crossfire light, with laughs thrown in.

Jon Stewart’s show is still good, although he has lost a focus of what he wants Daily Show to be. Where he used to keep it light, he is trending towards going “Garafolo.” His conservative guests are never given a fair chance, with not so much an intellectual exchange, or even debate, but more Jon Stewart out to get them, with humor strategically inserted at times when the guest would best be able to respond intellectually. Liberal guests turn into a smug-fest between Stewart and the guest. Again, this may be because our current crop of politicians (i.e. Bush) are inept and causing serious damage, as opposed to the previous crop (i.e. Clinton) who were easy to make fun of because of their foibles (i.e. enjoyment of overweight women), but ultimately harmless and actually effective at running government. Yet, Colbert’s strict satire better gets at the heart of this Republican administration’s flaws than Stewart’s dalliance in a serious journalism/intellectual humor balance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, in fact I feel like some of our conversations found expression in this post. And I agree that even when Colbert is making fun of the conservative point of view, he does it in such a way that a conservative can still laugh and think about it rather than changing the channel. Such is closer to the original (or semi original i.e. Stewart) daily show.

10:15 AM  

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