I enjoyed the Daily Show with Jon Stewart before the run up to the 2004 election, when he suddenly seemed to become more partisan and less funny. In the light of Stewart’s latest feud with Jim Cramer Tucker Carlson, Stewart’s old nemesis, explains what happened in a post titled “How Jon Stewart Went Bad“:
The relationship between Stewart and the media is a marriage of the self-loathing and the self-loving: He insists their real news is fake, they insist his fake news is real. He doesn’t take them seriously at all. They take him way too seriously. But nobody takes anybody as seriously as Jon Stewart takes himself.
A serious man needs a serious mission, however, and this is suddenly a problem. With Bush gone and the Republican Party in chaos, most of Stewart’s targets have disappeared. Yet rather than pivot with the times and challenge those now in power, Stewart continues to attack the same old enemies, at this point mostly straw men and pipsqueaks. A couple of weeks ago, he spent an entire seven minutes mocking the crowd at a CPAC conference.
His studio audience loved it, though that isn’t saying much. Stewart’s audience would erupt if he read the phone book, or did his monologue in German, a response that over time is a threat to any man’s soul. During many segments, Stewart’s audience doesn’t laugh so much as cheer, a distinction that would bother most comedians. Stewart keeps them around anyway. Uncritical praise corrupts absolutely.
As Stewart becomes more self-righteous, he inevitably becomes less funny. Sanctimony is the death of humor, and also of innovation. Where a show like South Park challenges its audience’s every conceivable assumption, The Daily Show has become safer than Jay Leno, pandering night after night to the converted. Can you remember the last time Stewart said anything his viewers might disagree with?
Like most sermons, Stewart’s showdown with Jim Cramer ended with a neat moral lesson. Once journalists who cover business regain their sense of responsibility and “start getting back to fundamentals on the reporting,” Stewart said gravely, “I can get back to making fart noises and funny faces.”
But it’s too late. The great comedian is gone, maybe forever. Jon Stewart is stuck in lecture mode.
Read the whole thing here.