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Jon Stewart -- Not Funny?
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Well, that's the conclusion of this New Republic article. I have to say, I watch The Daily Show regularly, and yeah, it makes me laugh. Though more often than not it's the non-political segments that I like the most, and though Siegel steeps to hyperbole more than once in this article, he has a point.

And that central point is that the job of a comedian is to make fun of the powerful and famous, to take them down a notch or three, but mostly to make us laugh.

But by aligning themselves with an ideology, with a politics, [Al] Franken, [Bill] Maher, and [Dennis] Miller weigh their comic negativity down with a positive premise. They actually believe in the power of the ballot box to shape the country's future. That's not funny.

He's right. Political activism requires earnestness and lack of cynicism, and that's the opposite of what makes most shit funny.

Siegel's prime example is the recent way Stewart handled Richard Clarke:

...I think Clarke is a genuine political satirist's bullseye. Here was a slick, malleable, professional political advisor/operator, who had the choice of resigning in protest against an invasion of Iraq months before it took place, when such a protest might have had consequences, but chose instead to wait until his slighted ego burst at the seams--this Clarke, a true embodiment of human foible and folly, deserved to be manhandled by the spirit of laughter every bit as much as his accusations deserved to be defended by the spirit of truth.

He's right, of course. Even if you believe everything Clarke said, he damn sure presents himself as a self-important, know-it-all blowhard. So how did Stewart handle the interview?

Rather than chide, tease, or otherwise discombobulate this smooth veteran courtier, Stewart worried with Clarke over the state of the nation, which prompted Clarke to make a nod to the show's target audience and express concern about how today's politics might breed cynicism, a bad thing "because we need young people to go into government ... and try to change things on the inside." Stewart then thanked Clarke for providing, in his book and in his testimony at the hearings, "an eye-opening examination of the true workings of government."

Hilarious, right? Well, but he was just being respectful to his guest. When someone comes on your show, you don't wink and giggle and make fun of them, do you?

Not unless you don't agree with their politics.

But right after Clarke's visit, Stewart had Karen Hughes on the show. Hughes, whom Stewart treated with sly irony, dutifully made a nod to the audience in a way that made her sound just like Clarke: "I hope to inspire young people about the political process."

Yes...I saw both those interviews. Neither one was funny, and Stewart was definitely wearing his politics on his sleeve. You could argue that the interviews aren't meant to be funny, but then, what's their point? To edify and elucidate? C'mon.

Siegel's right...Stewart pandered to Clarke. He sat across from him like a dutiful schoolboy taking in a lesson, rather than the one of the edgiest comedians on TV.

And it wasn't funny at all. It was lame.

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