Tuesday, December 25, 2007

As one of the few in my generation who does not hold Jon Stewart high on a pedestal, or wish to see him run for political office, it was strange to read on a blog a few years ago how the comedian had handled my literary hero, Christopher Hitchens on The Daily Show some time ago.

It's interesting, if only because I found myself wondering why Stewart was interviewing Hitchens in the first place.

I'm skeptical of Stewart these days. He was all over Tom Brokaw's 1968 on the History Channel, in which Stewart and his show were presented as some kind of cultural icon.

I'll admit that I haven't watched The Daily Show for years. So I can't really criticize its current product. But I felt like I watched it when I was in college when it was a comedy show, went to bed and woke up as a journalist six years later, finding my peers getting news from it.

I knew I'd really missed something when on the 1968 documentary, Bruce Springsteen was praising Jon Stewart, making him sound like he was this generation's Walter Cronkite.

The news is always getting criticized for becoming a cross between a serious program and Access Hollywood. Perhaps Brokaw himself -- like many of his colleagues -- shares that concern.

But why give so much time to The Daily Show, which is still a parody of a newscast (as far as I can figure) and present it as some information-gathering piece of Americana?

The fear, as expressed in Don Henley's song Dirty Laundry, was that entertainment and news would become so mixed that they became unrecognizable from each other.

But here we have one of Henley's peers -- Springsteen -- praising Stewart. Maybe Henley and Springsteen aren't close politically, but I doubt it.

Stewart, who I saw not too long ago on Costas Now's panel criticizing the president (he can talk sports, too), used to brush off claims that he gave softball interviews to certain candidates by saying he worked for Comedy Central. Why take someone who works there seriously?

But if he continues making appearances like the one he did on 1968, he runs the risk of becoming what he used to parody. And then when criticism flies his way, he can no longer retreat to the comedy umbrella.

And what happens when two forms of culture combine? I don't know. I just write about sports, politics and music on this blog.

But no one reads this. Lots of people watch The Daily Show. I just hope they don't vote by it.

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