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Black Sky Thinking

Is The Daily Show America's Saviour?
Ben Myers , November 3rd, 2008 15:37

Big Ben Myers casts his jaded eye over coverage of the US presidential elections and finds only The Daily Show comes up smelling of roses.

John Stewart

One thing has remained a constant during the current US presidential election for me and a few other millions others of a similar political persuasion. Each night I’ve tuned into The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in order to get latest the election stories. Notice I don’t use the word ‘election news’, for The Daily Show is not a news programme, but a satirical show hosted by a renowned stand-up comic. As a left-leaning liberal show it is also completely biased towards Barack Obama. So much so that in the run up to this week’s election the mainman cruised through an interview with Stewart on the show last night.

In fact, this seems to be the major consistent criticism directed at The Daily Show by the right-wing media during its twelve year existence: that it is overly critical of the Republicans, while giving the Democrats an easier ride. When George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer appeared on the show recently he complained that the entire episode had been weighted towards poking fun at John McCain, under-qualified Sarah Palin and that section of their flag-waving, Muslim-hating supporters, dubbed ‘McCainiacs’.

And he was absolutely right. But when the pro-life, anti-Green, God-bothering, gun-toting Republican shitehawks are giving it away it seems lazy not to go on the attack. My riposte would be: the entire US news media is completely imbalanced – so what? Since when did satire have to be a balanced? Who decided we were no longer allowed to laugh at politicians? And who suddenly made mocking gun-toting, anti-Darwinian brimstone-gargling nutters out of satirical bounds? Let’s face it: if we weren’t laughing we’d probably be crying.

I’ve been countering the information received from The Daily Show by regular doses of Fox News reports, marvelling over my morning porridge at the level of hatred, bigotry, and misinformation that is passed off as mainstream news (step forward Bill O’Reilly). Somewhere between the left and right wing media, you suspect the truth cowers and it is our job as concerned citizens to devour as much information across the board so that we might construct informed opinions about individuals who could conceivably shape the entire forthcoming century.

For many The Daily Show remains a primary source of political information, especially during this, the most bloody of election campaigns yet. The reason for this is surely presenter Jon Stewart. Stewart is a masterful anchorman whose wit holds the show together. He’s as slick as any mainstream presenter, but more subversive than any. He also happens to be one of the most trusted men in America. Those snobs who dismiss America as being a country that doesn’t have a sophisticated sense of humour and doesn’t “get” irony may want to watch the show.

Stewart attracts guests of the highest calibre too. This past month alone has seen appearances from the likes of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Robert De Niro and, um, Ricky Gervais, while comedian Richard Lewis’ recent manic appearance – part comedic rant, part heartfelt plea - was probably the best thing I’ve seen on TV this year. The Daily Show does have its downsides – too much of the mindless whooping/studio noise that Americans seem to love so, the occasionally hastily-written sketch and not enough anti-Republicanism for my liking. A set draped in hammer and sickles flags and the regular appearance in the background of lots of Muslim men tongue-kissing each other and some really butch lesbian fisting might improve it too. But for up-to-date, scathing fact-based satire it is still second to none in the world right now.

The UK has nothing in comparison, which leads one to wonder which shows we, the dead-eyed captive masses, will be turning to come the next Prime Ministerial election? Is the reliable but formulaic weekly show Have I Got News For You the best we can hope for? I hope not.

If – let's cross our fingers and toes and say when - Obama wins the election it will clearly be because he the better man. He’s smarter than McCain, more qualified and more dignified. But it possibly hasn’t harmed his cause having some of America’s greatest comic minds on his side.