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.


No comments: