Daily Show anchor walks the line between
entertainment and information
Headlines nowadays seem like some trite combination
of action comics and Jerry Bruckheimer movies, and the dire happenings
they talk about are usually presented by anchors who speak of
death and destruction with a gleam in their eyes. Is it any wonder,
then, that news satire has become a popular form of entertainment?
And though Saturday Night Live offers some distant competition,
the unquestioned king of fake news is Jon Stewart. Heck, people
even turn to Stewart to find out the real news, according to many
polls. But Stewart is unimpressed.
"Well, that's really just another story the
news media created," he says. "You have 24 hours to fill, after
all. I just saw a 'breaking news' flash come up on one of the
news channels the other day -- and the words just stayed up there.
It's a 24-hour news channel! How can you possibly have hours of
For a guy who does fake news, Stewart is ironically
plugged into the 24-hour news channel racket, which is a fairly
recent occurrence in Stewart's life. The comedian-cum-social commentator
got his start the way most of his brethren did, performing in
dingy clubs for laughs and bus money.
"I like going back to that now and again,"
he says. "I try to do a show at least once a month, just to talk
about whatever's on my mind at the time."
What followed the standup career was a long,
gruesome chain of "critically hailed" endeavors -- the sort of
things that are great ideas but don't get ratings. MTV's Jon
Stewart Show was a witty combination of talk show and sketch
comedy. Thus, like most things on television endowed with talent
and wit, it was spiked in the middle of its first season. Luckily,
his second starring role has been greeted with more enthusiasm.
The New York Times said Stewart "breathed
new life into a show that hadn't ever seemed to need it" when
he arrived as host of the Daily Show in 1999. Since, he
has risen from fake newsman to legitimate if wisecracking pundit.
Particularly when it comes to the mistakes and manipulations of
his "colleagues" in the broadcast media.
"I think the whole merging of information
and entertainment is a pretty sad state of affairs," he says.
"Treating the news as if it were an ad campaign is wrong." Stewart
believes that the manipulation of the media by the powers that
be is among the more disconcerting phenomena in recent media history.
He cites the recent Orange Alert as a perfect example. Though
it was based largely on fabricated and false evidence, the media
ran with the story, simply because it had neither the time nor
the inclination to check out the facts -- after all, who wants
to be beaten to the punch in breaking a big, spooky story like
"It's just that the politicians have
learned how to manipulate these channels so well," Stewart says.
"When they saw Nixon lose the election because of a couple beads
of sweat on his upper lip, they made a vow that this medium would
never get the best of them again. And it hasn't. In fact, the
opposite happens now."
[Photo Caption: You ever done the Daily Show...