Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Emperor (Jon Stewart) Needs New Clothes

+ _-/-

No one wants to speak of it, but the sad truth is that as
The Colbert Report has gone off on its brilliant satiric
attack featuring real money on American campaign
financing, The Daily Show has slipped into slow decline.

The viewer can still count on the opening segment being
cogent, funny and satirically engaged either with current
politics or the media's - almost always in this case cable
news's - inept or biased attempts to turn out 24 hrs/7days
a week's worth of news and analysis.

Still even here, Stewart spends an increasing amount of
time milking his material using techniques which used to
be more the style of his correspondents than himself.
Congratulating himself with fake slam dunks after jokes
that misfire or hit just right or dropping into a character
to challenge himself to a duel:  these are all necessary
parts of a comic's repertoire; but they shouldn't play
too big a role.

As to his correspondents, only John Oliver consistently
engages with politics.  Tonight's round table on the
President's State of the Union featured a bit of shared riffing
on whether Biden had a public hair in his jaw during the
speech.  Jokes about public hair sticking to peanut butter
are, of course, de rigeur in this situation, but political satire
it ain't. 

It all smells a bit of desperation.  Stewart  and his staff
must be aware of the shift in quality, the transitional
moment when the protege eclipses the mentor.  The Daily
Show still features some of the best political satire on tv,
but it needs to take a hard look at itself, stop relying
on the enormous good will Stewart's audience feels towards
him and start looking for ways to regenerate.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stephen Colbert vs Citizens United

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After attracting 1% of the vote to Herman Cain* - more than the combined total of all the other drop-out candidates and still more even when you add in all the votes Cain had received in previous contests  -  Stephen Colbert drops his run for the Presidency of the United States. 

Why?  Really there was no place further to push his satire after his rally in Charleston on Friday:

Rhetorically asking himself if his candidacy was just a big joke, he pointed out that if you think his ability to raise unlimited amounts of money from undisclosed sources, including foreign donors, and then being able to spend it anyway a supporting-but-of-course-non-coordinating Super PAC liked is a joke, then our whole campaign financing system in the United States is a joke.

Colbert's Speech in South Carolina

In the best tradition of show-don't tell, Colbert has skewered Citizens United and the John Roberts Supreme Court which keeps on competing with Roger Taney's for the worst Supreme Court in American History.

*Since Colbert ran too late to get on the ballot and South Carolina has no provision for write-in candidates, he asked his supporters to vote for Herman Cain.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stephen Colbert's Run For President

What makes Stephen Colbert's run for President different
than every other comedian who has run for President as
an act of satire is the presence of  real money.

Once Colbert convinced people to actually send his PAC
real money, he entered into an unprecedented realm of
post-modernism.  What's especially remarkable about
this is that most of the money is coming from contributors
who do not share his character's political views.

It's hard to know what motivates people in these tough
economic times to give money to a performer to mock
the system.  Is it the desire to be part of something
larger than one's self?   Is it a protest against the system?

Maybe in the end, it's a desire to make clear how absurd
our political system has become, in the wake of
the Citizens United decision, a refusal to play along
with the mainstream media that this huge apparatus that
has become our election process makes any sense at
all.  Or maybe it's just because he asked for it?