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Wednesday, February 25, 2004


The Daily Show last night was tres strange. After an opening segment where Stewart did his usual stuff (mock Bush, mock the Dems, mock the weather in Idaho, etc.), he had right-wing author John Podhoretz on for a book-promotion/interview. Podhoretz has just come out with a book that attempts to set the record straight about Bush - how he's a great guy who misunderstood by those evil liberals, "Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane" is the title. (yeah yeah, blah blah blah).

So, Stewart is in his fair and balanced mode, talking past the book and trying to get at the heart of why politics is so polarized and viscious these days, giving Podhoretz a hard time because the right gave us 8 years of bat-shit crazy Clinton bashing in the 90's and how nothing's changed but the direction of the hatred these days, so why is the right surprised, etc.. Podhoretz is saying that this book tries to clear up a bunch of myths about Bush (Bush isn't a moron, he's not a lightweight, he's not a racist or crazy, etc.) and in the process he makes a few statements praising Bush, and the audience giggled, snickered and outright laughed at him. Bush is not worshipped by Daily Show audiences, or by the Daily Show writers, so this was nothing unusual; every Daily Show episode is full of jokes that mock Bush (and other politicians), and they usually get big laughs, except when they cross the line into just plain mean and the audience gets squeamish.

What was unusual was that Stewart started pooh-poohing the audience for laughing at things that, had he said them, would have been jokes. When Podhoretz said something like "Bush is doing something revolutionary by making the country and the world safe for Americans and their interests", the audience snickered. If Stewart had said the same thing, the audience would've snickered too. But Stewart began acting disgusted and condescending towards the audience; and as the interview went on, he started saying that the general public is stupid and that his audience is a bunch of stoned "hippies" and how they're examples of the mindless political polaraization that's wrecking public discourse, blah blah blah. Yes, he often makes fun of the audience, but this time it didn't seem like a sly wink, it seemed more like an apology to his guest.

If Stewart is disgusted by the state of political discourse, maybe he should find a job where he's not making fun of politics and politicians every night ? Even if he does go after both left and right (not equally, but close), his job is to make politicians and world events seem silly, trivial and worthy of mockery. If he wants to do a serious talk show, maybe he needs to get a job on one of the Sunday AM shows.

Very strange. Maybe I'll watch the replay tonight to see if I just misunderstood Stewart's reaction.

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