Is Jon Stewart's set getting too cozy?

Js_lHarry Shearer is a man of many talents — funny voices (The Simpsons), funny bass-playing (This is Spinal Tap; A Mighty Wind), and, lately, funny websites. But all is not goofy and light in Shearer-land. Take the dead-serious, tantalizingly brief blog post he put up yesterday about the health of The Daily Show. "I think if you’re going to be making fun of politicians, you don’t hang out with them," he writes, citing a Comedy Central suit’s remark that Beltway heavies feel "comfortable" talking to Jon Stewart on air. "If satire is comforting the comfortable, what’s it doing to the afflicted?"

Good question. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been a faithful Daily Show viewer since the Kilborn years, and I still tune in just about every night. But there was a time when I considered Stewart a hero for the way he laced his laffs with dead-on policy jabs, the way he fearlessly spoke truth to power. And that time seems longer ago every night. Stewart does seem awfully chummy with those big-name guests these days; it’s as if he’s ceded his hell-raising powers to Stephen Colbert. When’s the last time you saw Stewart nail a politician with a true Gotcha! moment?

He gets a few good lines in every once in a while, of course, and I’ll never give up entirely on the old Stewart. Still, have I already judged him too soon? Should Shearer and I keep our mouths shut until we’re the ones being expected to produce 30 minutes of comedic and political gold four nights a week? You tell me.

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Comments (41 total) Add your comment
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  • krushgroove

    Jon Stewart should star in ‘The Faculty II’

  • Tiffany

    I thought he had a pretty good zinger at the end of his interview Tony Blair’s former press secretary.

  • mike

    It’s been since last night, actually. A Fla. Rep. and McCains campaign chairman who was arrested for solicitation. The night before they blasted Hillary Clinton about lobbiest contributions.
    Stephen Colbert is as hell-raising as you can get on TV. But, He gets no guests. Jon Stewart is a tough intelligent interveiwer who also happens to run a half hour comedy show.

  • Karoline

    I have to agree with you, Simon. When Jon Stewart interviewed Margaret Spellings (Secretary of Education) recently, I kept waiting for him to crucify her for No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, etc. Instead he threw her a bunch of softballs and let her get away with everything. Very disappointing.

  • Cliff

    All of the following is said as a huge Stewart fan: Any political figure who appears on the Daily Show is trying to either 1) sell a book; 2) appeal to younger voters with a “good sport” approach, or 3) both of the above. Both interviewer and interviewee are hoping to use the other to gain credibility, and so neither is looking to offend the other on camera. I just wish Jon wouldn’t wait until the following day to “zing” his guest, as he did with John Bolton–he let a golden opportunity slip by that time.

  • Jaime

    I think he’s a polite interviewer, as he should be. However, I’ve never, ever seen a politician comfortable on the show, and I’ve watched every night for the past five years. For instance, John McCain, someone you’d definitely think would be chummy with Stewart as the show’s most frequent guest, was absolutely torn APART last interview. That was only a couple of months ago. Frankly, while I think the show has its weaknesses (cough Dan Bakkedahl cough), this is not one of them. For instance, though you’re right that he got John Bolton back after he made a false statement during his interview, Cliff, the interview itself was hardly softball. Jon went after the bastard full force.

  • Raven_Moon

    The idea that Jon Stewart has gone soft with politicians is just ridiculous. If you paid attention to the show that you claim to watch almost every night, you would know that. Does he rip apart everyone who comes on? Of course not. If he did that no one would ever come on the show. Jon Stewart is a brilliant comedian & “The Daily Show” is better for it.

  • Jake

    Jon’s a polite interviewer; always has been. As was pointed out by another comment, if he was nailing his guests every night, he would only get actors wanting to plug a movie, which used to be 3 or so guest every week. For the last few years, it’s been book authors (not all elected or former — or trying to get elected — politicians) and some government officials/politicians. The show still skewers many of these people, often and well, especially at the top of the show; this isn’t Meet The Press, trying to nail some politician on camera, as if MTP does that every Sunday. If he was so nice to them, you would see more Bush admin officials on the show

  • Moochy

    Yes, Harry Shearer is a man of many talents, but I’ve interviewed him, and the difference between Shearer and Stewart is that Stewart sees politicians as people. Shearer see them as targets. He doesn’t have the same depth.
    Jon has done some softball interviews, but I would say he continues to provide a lot of pretty deadly zingers–think of his interview with Gordon Campbell or the last with John McCain (in which McCain was so “comfortable,” his head almost exploded). I have to be honest here–I really don’t understand why Jon is criticized for being soft, when the mainstream *news* media fails to do the job he’s slammed for “not doing” every single one of their broadcasts.

  • David

    Dear Simon Vozick-Levinson, you asked: Should Shearer and I keep our mouths shut until we’re the ones being expected to produce 30 minutes of comedic and political gold four nights a week? YES! Well… I mean YOU SHOULD SHUT UP. Shearer – no, because he’s far talented than you. Bwahahaha. Doh! Excellent!

  • Shrute

    Stewart is funny. That’s the aim of the show on Comedy Central, if I’m not mistaken.

  • Nick

    The real problem is that there’s a HUGE disparity in the treatment received by the two parties. Liberals, at worst, are given defense-attorney-treatment by Stewart, who lobs them softballs he already knows the answers to. Conservatives are treated cordially, but Stewart will debate them with diplomatic passion; a small handful have been treated very harshly and humorlessly (Jon Podhoretz springs to mind). The same can’t be said for any liberal guests he’s had.

  • GingerCat

    I don’t see the disparity between how Jon treats liberals and conservatives as a problem. For one thing, a major conservative is in the White House right now (and has been for more than six years), so he and his people are more accountable for what’s going on in the world. Therefore, Jon has more to challenge them on.
    For another, liberals get beat up all the time on O’Reilly, Hannity, and Limbaugh–not to mention Ann Coulter whenever she’s on the air–and these people don’t always bother to even tell the truth. Is it so wrong to have a show where the tables are turned?
    And don’t tell me that ALL the media is liberal except for Fox News. That’s just not the case.

  • Tom Strong

    Yes, he is soft. Yes he is chummy with his liberal guests. Yes, he is no longer funny. He would be nothing without his writing staff. They carry him.
    Colbert, on the other hand, is GOLD. Stewart must secretly hate him for stealing his thunder.

  • Brent

    The interview portion of The Daily Show has never been its strong suit. The real criticisms come in the first twenty minutes, while the interviews are generally cordial (and also are not usually with members of a certain political party).

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