Comedy Central is Serious

Andrew Sullivan today lashed out at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, printing and adding onto the below:

The problem lies in the role they play in the overall mediasphere, especially among Gen X and Gen Y; namely, the fact that for many of these viewers, Stewart/Colbert have become a surrogate for actually engaging with politics and current events more deeply, or treating it all as anything other than an ongoing joke.

I know this makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy — I’m only 40 — but still… I can’t tell you how many people I know who get their political news exclusively from Stewart/Colbert, and that’s pathetic.

It’s news commentary, after all, not the news itself. Worse, because Stewart and Colbert are so clever, they make their viewers feel clever — or at least smug — as well. But that smugness breeds a kind of complacent cynicism, with the take-away message being something like, “Politicians are just liars and clowns, and politics itself is just a form of kabuki, so let’s just treat it as the joke that it is and leave it at that.”

This is far from the truth. In fact, the two shows are much more serious than most shows. The interviews they do are with more interesting people, and are much more meaty than anything you see on the networks. The interviews always give the guests a chance to speak. They are always back and forth, not just a list of questions.

And more importantly, they are about ideas. An interview with Jennifer Aniston or Kid Rock is much rarer than an interview with Sandy Berger or Salman Rushdie. Oprah has a book group once a month, these guys interview an author a week. Who else is doing that? And even the comedy bits often deal with the substance of issues much more than standard news coverage. The humor often comes from having a larger context, from giving the perspective on the news that the straight news doesn’t.

There’s a reason that the viewers are the most informed. They may not cover it fairly, but the cover news for what it is, not what they want it to be. And they interview the interesting people of the world, clearly because Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are themselves intellectually curious people who want to know more about the world they live in.

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  • moleboy says:

    It’s funny how threatened people seem to be by Jon and Stephen.
    IMHO, unlike, say, the nightly news on the networks, these shows tell us how things are working behind the scenes.
    When Stewart mentions that the democrats were defeated, not because of a filabuster (which, if you recall, the Republicans threatened to do away with…but they are relieved they didn’t) but because of the THREAT of a filabuster, well, things take on a different slant.

    The fact is, these two report with more insight, and understanding than any of the talking heads on the nightly news.
    I’m not denegrating those heads, its mostly that Jon and Stephen are ALLOWED to say what really needs to be said.

  • Muttrox says:

    Yep. When something is BS, they say it’s BS.

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