I learned of Jon Stewart only when he started hosting The Daily Show. The New York Times has an article on him here. Some excerpts and my thoughts below:
MR. STEWART describes his job as “throwing spitballs” from the back of the room and points out that “The Daily Show” mandate is to entertain, not inform. Still, he and his writers have energetically tackled the big issues of the day — “the stuff we find most interesting,” as he said in an interview at the show’s Midtown Manhattan offices, the stuff that gives them the most “agita,” the sometimes somber stories he refers to as his “morning cup of sadness.” And they’ve done so in ways that straight news programs cannot: speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language, while using satire and playful looniness to ensure that their political analysis never becomes solemn or pretentious.
I actually find the show the most informative for current affairs. Plus it challenges you to think whenever consuming any form of media.
I became aware of the power that comedy, parody and satire have when I was studying Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks during my American Film History class – it is this power that The Daily Show wields so adeptly.
Sidenote: The two modules I enjoyed the most when in NUS were ‘American Film History’ and ‘Film and History’. I’m an Engineering graduate and to be honest, it was only when i was taking the cross-faculty modules that I felt I was being challenged to think independently, differently and critically. The Engineering modules were only about the answers and the steps to get there without much appreciation for the steps and the reasons behind them.
Sorry. I digressed.
Anyway, more excerpts:
“In some respects, the heavier subjects are the ones that are most loaded with opportunity because they have the most — you know, the difference between potential and kinetic energy? — they have the most potential energy, so to delve into that gives you the largest combustion, the most interest. I don’t mean for the audience. I mean for us. Everyone here is working too hard to do stuff we don’t care about.”
Mr. Stewart’s comedic gifts — his high-frequency radar for hypocrisy, his talent for excavating ur-narratives from mountains of information, his ability, in Ms. Corn’s words, “to name things that don’t seem to have a name” — proved to be perfect tools for explicating and parsing the foibles of an administration known for its secrecy, ideological certainty and impatience with dissenting viewpoints.
He’s the Jersey Boy and ardent Mets fan as Mr. Common Sense, pointing to the disconnect between reality and what politicians and the news media describe as reality, channeling the audience’s id and articulating its bewilderment and indignation. He’s the guy willing to say the emperor has no clothes, to wonder why in Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “It’s 3 a.m.” ad no one picks up the phone in the White House before six rings, to ask why a preinvasion meeting in March 2003 between President Bush and his allies took all of an hour — the “time it takes LensCrafters to make you a pair of bifocals” to discuss “a war that could destroy the global order.”
While he possesses Johnny Carson’s talent for listening and George Carlin’s gift for observation, his comedy remains rooted in his informed reactions to what Tom Wolfe once called “the irresistibly lurid carnival of American life,”
“Jon’s ability to consume and process information is invaluable,” said Mr. Colbert. He added that Mr. Stewart is “such a clear thinker” that he’s able to take “all these data points of spin and transparent falsehoods dished out in the form of political discourse” and “fish from that what is the true meaning, what are red herrings, false leads,” even as he performs the ambidextrous feat of “making jokes about it” at the same time.
“We often discuss satire — the sort of thing he does and to a certain extent I do — as distillery,” Mr. Colbert continued. “You have an enormous amount of material, and you have to distill it to a syrup by the end of the day. So much of it is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren’t the point or aren’t the story or aren’t the intention. Really it’s that last couple of drops you’re distilling that makes all the difference. It isn’t that hard to get a ton of corn into a gallon of sour mash, but to get that gallon of sour mash down to that one shot of pure whiskey takes patience” as well as “discipline and focus.”
this was after 9-11:
He talked about feeling privileged to live where you can “sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks.” And he talked about “why I grieve but why I don’t despair.”
Singapore has lots of problems. But we also have got a lot of things right. The question that I think needs to be asked is this – is the current environment one where the people who really care know within themselves that things can get better, that there is hope and despair is replaced. More specifically, do we have the conviction that if any sort of shit hits the fan, we will be able to deal with it with stoic resolve.
In fact, Mr. Stewart regards comedy as a kind of catharsis machine, a therapeutic filter for grappling with upsetting issues. “What’s nice to us about the relentlessness of the show,” he said, “is you know you’re going to get that release no matter what, every night, Monday through Thursday. Like pizza, it may not be the best pizza you’ve ever had, but it’s still pizza, man, and you get to have it every night. It’s a wonderful feeling to have this toxin in your body in the morning, that little cup of sadness, and feel by 7 or 7:30 that night, you’ve released it in sweat equity and can move on to the next day.”
You know something – reading some the posts that are linked by Singapore Daily is my catharsis machine because some of the writers are indeed funny and biting in their commentary of Singapore and the shenanigans that occur. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Something is missing and I think Singaporeans need our own Jon Stewart.
This is the link to this post-9/11 speech. This was the clip that made me start to admire him.
The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center…Now it’s gone. They attacked this symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce, and it is gone., but you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.