Monday, June 27, 2011

Jon Stewart, Unhinged

I caught an interesting clip on Fox News a la the DirecTV link on my Austin bound flight. I had been in a self-imposed media blackout while spending a true vacation with the family so I missed the actual interview and subsequent fireworks but apparently there was a set of verbal gaffes that survived the "24 hour new cycle" the one that vexes the Thin Skinned One. This story wasn't about him, per se, but it survived to be talked about a week later.

The story in question involved a Comedy Central mainstay. Jon Stewart jumped the shark tank. He filled it with water and put his own shark in the tank then . . . he jumped it, or rather into it by saying his job (as a comedian) was harder than that of professional news man Chris Wallace in an interview being conducted by Chris Wallace.

Stewart, who is only mildly funny to begin with, disarmed himself of his only weapons: hipster irony and insouciance. He did so when he allowed his own arrogance to get the better of him. He disarmed himself when he took his personae and his show so seriously by making this ridiculous proclamation of self-importance. Think about it -- the guy who's one-trick-pony is to attack everyone in the political and entertainment sphere as being too serious and self-important told us how serious and important he is. No longer can he be seen floating above it all in a too-cool cloud of detached comedic commentary. Now he's swimming with the sharks; sharks who's biting criticism he must endure now that he has set himself on that same level of importance.

And let's just put this in perspective. Stewart's entire argument about his job being more difficult than that of Chris Wallace, a fallible individual as we witnessed a week later in his Bachmann interview, but a man with a much larger viewership and a reputation as a serious journalist . . . well his argument is one of those sports-talk canards. It is that false debate when die-hard fans compare the baseball dynasty of the one fan's allegiance to the hockey dynasty of the other fan's devotion in a battle for which team is the greatest of all time. There are no winners, only opinions. Comparing a serious news program that stands for something and doesn't shrink from it's political bias to a comedian doing a skit and who falsely prides himself on standing for nothing but the laughs (when he clearly has a bias of his own), a show we are often reminded is "Not a News show" but merely "entertainment" is, well, a poor basis for comparison.

The big difference here is that Chris Wallace doesn't measure his significance by the number of Facebook followers who "Like" him. Because he admits to standing for something, he measures himself on that basis. Is he fair and accurate and do his interviews and panel discussions illicit responses that illuminate certain topics?

What's really comedic about this episode is how Stewart's audience, mostly trend lemmings have to make a choice. They either choose to stand for something even if that something is the guy who stands for nothing or they have to abandon their thought leader, choose not to defend their guy's arrogant gaffes so they can stay devoted to their own hipster detachment . . . and all because they'd rather never be wrong about anything. A bit of a conundrum -- the type that some people recognize as a sign that it is time to grow up.

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