Hey, FNC: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Of all the commentators on the broadcast spectrum, of all the newsmen and talk show hosts who blubbered it up afterward, it was Jon Stewart who finally got to me about September Eleventh.

“The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. And now it’s gone. And they attacked it,” Stewart said during a weepy monlogue on The Daily Show in 2001. “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.”

I didn’t cry about September Eleventh until I saw this. His words were uncharacteristically stammered and punctuated with fidgets, poking his desktop with a pencil, that sort of thing. It was perfect and powerful, and it was what allowed me to cry. It’s no wonder someone who can move me like that over that can offer me a full-on belly laugh every night.

I’m reviewing Stewart’s monologue today to try to remember and explain why “The Daily Show” is good, because I’m trying to figure out why Fox Noise Channel’s (thanks, Keith) “Half Hour News Hour” is so frightfully bad. Disclaimer: I have only seen the Interweb clip, and that is probably all of it that I shall see. Viewing more of it might require me to seek medical attention.

The success of “The Daily Show” and its spinoff, “The Colbert Report,” was summed up nicely in a recent Rolling Stone article, a feature piece on Stewart and Colbert. Quoth: “Ben Karlin, Stewart’s thirty-five-year-old production partner who oversees both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, says that ‘the biggest mistake people make is thinking that Jon and Stephen sit down before every show and say, ‘OK, how are we going to change the world?’ or any bullshit like that. They both really just want to get a laugh.”

Compare that point of view to that of “1/2 Hour News Hour” creator Joel Surnow, who has also given us the mind-numbing it-will-happen-here propaganda program, “24”: “One of the things that’s definitely not out there is a satirical voice that skews to the right as opposed to the left. You can turn on any comedy satire show on TV and you’re going to hear 10 Bush jokes, 10 Cheney jokes, but you’ll never hear a Hillary Clinton joke or a global-warming send-up.”

Leave it to a guy working for FNC not to even be able to get even the most basic facts correct:

  • Sept. 19, 2006, Jon Stewart puts President Bill Clinton on the “Hot Seat” and asks: “Mr. President, Hilary Clinton may be running for President. If so, what is the key to defeating her?” A Hillary Clinton joke.
  • Just this week: A piece runs by Dan Bakkedahl about how global warming affects the Coney Island Polar Bears. A global warming send-up.

Which is beside the point. It is among many reasons that the “1/2 Hour…Hour” and FNC, the beast what spawned it, are respectively  not-funny ha-ha and the not-funny strange. But it’s primarily because “The Daily Show” is produced by comic performers for a comedychannel with current events as its grist. The other is produced by propagandists for a propaganda channel that uses current events peppered with party talking points. One’s primary mission is to be funny, while the other’s is to obsfucate while wearing a funny hat. 

A Stewart quote from the 9/11 monologue shows that he has always understood his job, profoundly. He said: “A lot of folks have asked me, what are you going to do when you get back? What are you going to say? What a terrible thing. But I don’t see it as a burden. I see it as a privilege. I see it as a privilege, and everyone here does see it that way, and the show in general, we feel like is a privilege, even the idea that we can sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks, which is really what we do. We sit in the back and we throw spitballs, and never forgetting the fact that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that.”

Stewart understands that comedy comes from, among other places, freedom—from a drive toward it, from a lust for it, from an utter respect for it. The Fox Noise Channel’s mascot is a big bloated head constantly spitting “shut up!” at people. They don’t view Stewart’s wisecracks as a “luxury.” They think it’s a nuisance, and so they’ve hatched this pile of vomit in part of its broader effort to shout them down.

One can hope that the “Half Hour Comedy Hour” will be the Fox Noise Channel’s Last Big Mistake, that as incredibly unfunny as it is, it will expose its viewers to the truth about itself, and that they will tune out.

After all, it’s got the word “comedy” in the title. What else might they be lying to you about?