On Fox News’ Media Buzz Sunday morning, host Howard Kurtz continued the back and forth between media critics who claim that the Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s mockery of Obamacare was a watershed moment for the law, and Stewart’s response that he’s just a comedian whose equal opportunity jokes shouldn’t be taken as bellwethers of political opinion.
“This is a neat little game that Jon Stewart is playing,” Kurtz said. “He wants to be a cutting-edge media and political critic—remember the Rally for Sanity in Washington?—and he’s good at it! But if you say he’s having an impact, he says, ‘Wuh? I don’t have any impact. I’m just a guy telling smutty jokes on basic cable.’”
Kurtz was one of the critics Stewart lampooned on his show this week. Last Sunday, Kurtz had led an entire segment on the Daily Show’s coverage of Obamacare, with regular guest Lauren Ashburn arguing that Stewart was speaking to the very demographic whose participation was necessary for the law’s functionality.
“Jon Stewart making fun of Obamacare was a symbolic moment, the same with SNL mocking Kathleen Sebelius, but these things matter,” Kurtz said. “Do we in the media overuse these clips to oversimplify issues? We’re guilty, Jon, we’re guilty! But keep ‘em coming.”
Jon Stewart is infamouse for his “clown nose on, clown nose off” routine where he alternates between being a serious journalist and claiming his is “just a comedian”. The fact is he is both.
I don’t know how influential Stewart or any other comedian really is. That is a really hard thing to measure. He certainly has some influence, but that isn’t what matters right now.
Late night comics have their fingers on the pulse of popular culture. They have to be in touch with the daily zeitgeist to be successful. If they are talking about a subject then so are millions of other Americans. Their jokes will generally reflect the mood and popular opinion of their target audience.
Jon Stewart got his start on The Daily Show covering the 2000 primaries and the presidential election. But he really hit his stride mocking George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. He was merciless and fearless.
Then came Obama, and suddenly the occupant of the White House became a taboo topic of humor. The GOP was still fair game, and sometimes other Democrats, but Thou Shalt Not Disrespect Teh Precious!
So when someone says “Even John Stewart . . .” what they mean is “Even someone who is totally in the tank for Obama . . .”
And that is significant.