Friday, December 17, 2010

Jon Stewart

I've read a bunch of stuff (to which I'm too tired to link) which talks about how Jon Stewart is testing the wall between comedic satire and actual political participant.  And I really have to say that if he keeps doing it the way he's doing it now, it's about damn time.

A moment on the "Rally to Restore Sanity."  I remember the day Stewart announced it and I had a little twinge of excitement.  This could really be good, I thought.  A little grass roots action of our own.  Because while I do disagree with many of my fellow Americans, I think the quality of the dialogue we've had lately has gone down (while the volume has gone up), and I would totally get behind holding hands with sane individuals of any political viewpoint, under the "Take it down a notch, America" banner.  And I had that momentary thought that maybe if people really did come out in force for such a simple proposition, it might make some people on both sides of the aisle maybe, just maybe, start thinking about appealing more to the center than the extremes on the sides.

And the moment of excitement died shortly thereafter, when Stephen Colbert announced his competing "March to Restore Fear."  Don't get me wrong, I dig me some Colbert.  Nine times out of ten, I prefer him to Stewart (and generally don't get why Stewart keeps winning the Emmy over him).  But Colbert's "March to Restore Fear" said, "Hey, guys -- Stewart's rally isn't a real rally; it's comedy."  I thought there was a real golden opportunity here for the "Daily Show demographic" -- the people who really don't dig the extremists -- to stop sitting in front of their TVs and take a stand, even if it was for something as innocuous as changing the tone of the dialogue -- and they just blew it by making it a comedy show rather than a real rally.

In actuality, it turned out to be something of both, but not entirely enough of either.

But yesterday... damn, yesterday Stewart raised the bar.  He's been making a case for the Zadroga bill for a couple of days now -- but it's been a case grounded in the comedy that The Daily Show does best:  largely pointing out the hypocrisy of elected officials who appear to be praising the 9/11 first responders one day, and then pissing all over them the next.  But yesterday, Stewart went a step further, devoting an entire show to the bill.  He interviewed four 9/11 first responders who are all suffering adverse health effects from working in the rubble, and asked them to comment on the excuses given by certain Republican Senators for not considering the bill.  This is Advocacy 101 -- Put a Face on the Issue.  Jon Stewart did the closest thing he could to asking the Senate to tell these people to their faces why the Bill isn't being passed; he asked the first responders what they thought of Senators who didn't want to work through the week after Christmas in order to pass the Bill.  He didn't have to ask us to be disgusted along with them; we already were.

If Stewart were looking for an issue -- a real issue -- to actually pursue, he couldn't have found a better one.  You can't challenge his New Yorker cred; and even the people who are against the Zadroga bill can't be against the idea of getting health care for these folks.  There may well be some legitimate reasons to not like the current language of this bill, but nobody is going to say these folks don't deserve to have their medical treatment covered.  They're cancer-stricken 9/11 First Responders for crying out loud.  Is there a more sympathetic group to rally around?  (I mean, strictly in terms of poster value, they're better than veterans, because you don't have any of that uncomfortable "unpopular war" baggage associated with them.  They're freakin' perfect.)  So what I'm saying here is, were I to assume that Jon Stewart had a political consultant behind him trying to find the world's safest issue for him to stake out a political position on, this would be the one.

And he did with elegance, respect, the combined wisdom of a Daily Show team that has slickly been skewering politicians for a dozen years, and the helpful support of a high-profile Republican with a show on Fox News.

My first thought was that, with this one, he earned the Emmy.

My second thought was, he really can't submit this one for it, because he's gone way beyond Comedy or Variety program.

1 comment:

Wil said...

Interesting, and I expect, valid points made. Sadly, unlike my 86 y.o. aunt who is glued to her chair from 11 AM until 11 PM watching the talking heads and pundits of all stripes waging war upon our freedoms, I no longer give a damn. They are all poison and anathema to me.

Let me have RTV (please -- I'm stuck with 3 over-the-air channels) so I can watch innocuous video of train sets and trail rides -- I simply can not bestir myself to care one whit what these flaming talking heads are mumbling about. They've already buggered us without benefit of any balm of good intentions; why should I care what THEY are saying now?