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Saturday · October 16 2004

John Stewart on Crossfire last night
Clip of the week. Don't miss this.

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.


CARLSON: OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans…


STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

Should that site run out of bandwith, Wonkette has a list of some other sites hosting the clip.

Archived: Political » October 2004
What you had to say:
October 17 2004

Oh... priceless. The most pointed and forceful I have seen Stewart yet. My favorite volley:

Carlson: "You need a job at a journalism school."

Stewart: "You need to GO to one."

Just one coment: I love the Daily Show and Jon Stewart in particular, but one paradoxical thing has come up in repeated interviews that he has done with 'serious' news people (like Ted Koppel for example), which is his point that while they are serious famous news people whose job it is to hold politicians accountable, he is just on a comedy show and lacks the 'gravitas' to do the same. Yet the more news shows he does, the more he is proving himself a heavyweight in just that arena (much to everyone else's chagrin). How much more watchable the presidential debates could have been had he been a moderator...

October 17 2004

As much as I like Stewart, I think he's using the "I'm just a comedy show" line too much. He's not Tina Fey doing Weekend Update; he clearly holds some sway. Tucker Carlson tried to call him on it, but Stewart thinks Carlson is a cockroach. Stewart uses it as a "Get out of Jail free" card to every charge leveed against him.

I don't know that I'd want Stewart as a moderator. The focus shouldn't be on the moderator and that's what would have happened. Jim Lehrer was the best of the three I saw -- I missed Charlie Gibson in the town hall style one. As it was, I thought the debates were much more watchable than I anticipated.

October 17 2004

True, in reality, Stewart would probably have made it too comical. But I was wondering if at least he, having no journalistic reputation to worry about, would have held the candidates more accountable for their answers. Jim Lehrer was in fact quoted as saying that he would rather have been viewed as going too easy on the candidates than being too much of a bully. I was practically jumping up and down in the last debate, yelling at the television because no one explicitly pointed out the fact that Bush completely evaded the minimum wage question, among others. The debates, while they had some good moments, still felt more like dueling ad spots than debate.

But I totally agree with you on the "get out of jail free" card, he's got to stop doing that and now acknowledge that he too shares the responsibility for critical journalism over (as he put it) "theater."

October 18 2004

I don't know if I agree. Currently, Stewart plays a very unusual and neccessary role in the media/politics. He is the "Fool" of our modern day court. As an outsider who is not to be taken seriously, he uses comedy as a tool to ridicule the powerful and point out inconsistancies in the system and the media. If he were to claim legitimacy he would lose a lot of his effectiveness. In a way, shows like Crossfire and other news programs are showing their own loss of power or legitimacy by treating him as if he were one of their own.
I would argue that even on the Crossfire clip, his behavior could be taken humorously. The tone changed because the hosts reacted seriously and defensively to his charges.

October 18 2004

I still draw the comparison to Tina Fey and the history of Weekend Update anchors. We don't take them seriously at all. Their satire/farce is for humor's sake alone. Fey is pointed, wittym, and runs a news satire show, but nobody is asking who she's voting for.

We viewers see Stewart's commentary and jokes in a different light. We laugh, but we take him more seriously, akin to a live-action political cartoon. Political cartoons are funny, but they take responsibility for their relevance. Political cartoonists (e.g. Gary Trudeau - Doonebury ) don't constantly plead, "Please, don't make me relevant. I'm just a cartoonist."

I firmly believe Stewart wants it both ways. As a fan of his, I want him to as well. You're exactly right. If he claimed legitimacy, he'd lose effectiveness because he'd be held to higher standards. Precisely why I think he wants it both ways; that's what being snarky is all about.

October 18 2004

I'll just pop in to simply say that ADORE Jon Stewart. Thanks for posting this. It made my Monday.

October 18 2004

The comments page at Lost Remote has some good, further discussion.

October 20 2004

In this country, we've gotten very used to the Leno/Letterman style of political joke (and to some extent, the SNL style) where the joke is just a joke and really doesn't have any significant political point to make. The Daily Show is satire that has a point, and while that's hardly a new concept it seems like a lot of people (like Tucker Carlson) don't seem to understand what that is.

But even if TDS addresses some serious points, they're still constricted by their format. They don't have any real journalists on their staff (neither does Crossfire, but I digress...) They can't afford to really send reporters to Iraq or wherever. They can't cover issues that have no humour potential, and spend a lot of time on stuff that isn't very important but it's funny, so they can't be expected to be comprehensive. CNN does have the budget to send people to Iraq, to hire real journalists and to cover unfunny things, so why aren't they doing it?

It's true Gary Trudeau would never say "please don't make me relevant" but he probably would say "please don't rely on me for the news and please don't expect me to have all the answers, or for that matter, have an opinion on every issue, because I'm just a one-man cartoon factory and can't possibly do all of that." I think that's what Stewart is trying do - comments on the things he does know about, and defer to on the things he doesn't.

The point about "the fool" being the only one who can speak the truth is dead on. Likewise, have you noticed that David Letterman tends to ask very pointed very relevant questions whenever he's got a political figure on his show. He's much better at it than the guys on "real" news shows.

October 20 2004

Why do we need to defend every little John Stewart's comments or actions done during Crossfire show? It seems we are also guilty of bs'ing ourselves like the media has to the public in recent years. Let's focus on the problem which is news media isn't informing Americans with truthfulness, objectiveness, and make government accountable for any and all decisions that affects America as a whole. As church and state should be separate, news media and partisanship should be separate. Leave any partisanship remarks to "Commentary" section of news media. I believe we should praise John Stewart to care enough and bold enough to make comments on Crossfire. He was willing to risk alienating, if any, some individuals to express his frustration. I have not followed nor cared about our government and it's politics but for passing curiosity. In recent years, it is hard to ignore so much negatives.

We should address critical problems rather than messengers' faults. Let us use our brains rather our biased opinions. Don't let our fears cloud our judgements. I hope we are better than what rest of the world thinks of us...

October 20 2004

from today's New York Times

No Jokes or Spin. It's Time (Gasp) to Talk.

Published: October 20, 2004

here is nothing more painful than watching a comedian turn self-righteous. Unless of course, the comedian is lashing out at smug and self-serving television-news personalities. Jon Stewart could not resist a last dig at CNN's "Crossfire" during his monologue on Comedy Central on Monday night . "They said I wasn't being funny," the star of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" said, rolling his eyes expressively. "And I said to them: 'I know that. But tomorrow I will go back to being funny," Mr. Stewart said, adding that their show would still be bad, although he used a more vulgar expression.

And that is why his surprise attack on the hosts of CNN's "Crossfire" was so satisfying last Friday. Exchanging his usual goofy teasing for withering contempt, he told Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson that they were partisan hacks and that their pro-wrestling approach to political discourse was "hurting America." (He also used an epithet for the male reproductive organ to describe Mr. Carlson.)

Real anger is as rare on television as real discussion. Presidential candidates no longer address each other directly in debates. Guests on the "Tonight" show or "Oprah" are scripted monologuists who pitch their latest projects and humor the host. It has been decades since talk-show guests conversed with one another, yet there was a time when famous people held long and at times legendarily hostile discussions (Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. on ABC in 1968, Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1980).

Nowadays, live television meltdowns seem to be pathological, not political - Janet Jackson baring a breast during the Super Bowl or Farrah Fawcett babbling incoherently to David Letterman.

The fuming partisan rants on Fox News or "Real Time With Bill Maher" are aimed at the converted. And celebrities, like politicians, stay on message and stick to talking points, which may help explain the popularity of "Celebrity Poker" - it gives viewers a rare, unfiltered glimpse of stars' real personalities as they handle a bad hand or a humiliating bluff.

Mr. Stewart's frankness was a cool, startling, rational version of Senator Zell Miller's loony excoriation ("Get out of my face") to Chris Matthews of MSNBC during the Republican convention.

The transcript of Friday's "Crossfire," and the blog commentary about it, popped up all over the Internet this weekend. Mr. Stewart's Howard Beal (of "Network") outburst stood out because he said what a lot of viewers feel helpless to correct: that news programs, particularly on cable, have become echo chambers for political attacks, amplifying the noise instead of parsing the misinformation. Whether the issue is Swift boat ads or Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment suit, shows like "Crossfire" or "Hardball" provide gladiator-style infotainment as journalists clownishly seek to amuse or rile viewers, not inform them.

When Mr. Carlson took the offense, charging that Mr. Stewart had no right to complain since he had asked Senator John Kerry softball questions on "The Daily Show," Mr. Stewart looked genuinely appalled. "I didn't realize - and maybe this explains quite a bit - that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." When Mr. Carlson continued to argue, Mr. Stewart shut him down hard. "You are on CNN," he said. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."

All late-night talk-show hosts make jokes about politicians. What distinguishes Mr. Stewart from Jay Leno and David Letterman is that the Comedy Central star mocks the entire political process, boring in tightly on the lockstep thinking and complacency of the parties and the media as well as the candidates. More than other television analysts and commentators, he and his writers put a spotlight on the inanities and bland hypocrisies that go mostly unnoticed in the average news cycle.

Mr. Stewart is very funny, but it is the vein of "a plague on both your houses" indignation that has made his show a cult favorite: many younger voters are turning to the "The Daily Show" for their news analysis, and are better served there than on much of what purports to be real news on cable.

And of course it was fun just to see television pundits who think they are part of the same media version of the Algonquin Round Table as Mr. Stewart lose their cool when he tore off the tablecloth and shattered the plates. "Wait,'' Mr. Carlson said querulously. "I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny." Mr. Stewart was funny. And it was at their expense.

October 20 2004

Do you/we/anyone think it will make a difference?

Will people finally rise up against the crap on tv and demand something better, or will this incident just be swallowed into the massive cesspool of punditry and blather, allowing business to go on as usual?

© 2004 Jason Keglovitz