In the November 16th issue of Rolling Stone, the feature article is an interview by New York Times op-ed writer Maureen Dowd with Comedy Central faux-news hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The article starts out with the sort of pretension that makes people in red states (and more than a few in the blue states) dislike the New York Times. Maureen Dowd talks about the nonchalant attitude Stewart and Colbert have toward her when they start the interview, with both making jokes about Dowd’s clunky audio recorder. Dowd alludes to the fact that while she interviews serious minded politicians and social leaders with the gravity they deserve, Colbert and Stewart are like frat brothers calling politicians names. Dowd’s arrogance gives way to effusive questioning about the duo’s influence upon the political sentiments of college students.
As both Stewart and Colbert explain throughout Dowd’s line of questioning, they aren’t social revolutionaries, political commentators, or members of the cable news cabal. They are both comedians, writers, and actors who are trying to make the bad news we see every day somewhat amusing. At most, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report strive to make Americans laugh at the hypocrisy inherent within the American political system. However, the news media generally and Maureen Dowd specifically are trying to turn these two into agents for change.
While many observers may just attribute this to the need for media organizations to stay on the cutting edge and become king makers for social trends, it seems more likely that they are moving the blame and the praise away from the mysterious halls of government in Washington, D.C. to the more accessible television studios of New York City. While the vagaries of national and international politics can be murky and tedious to cable news viewers and newspaper readers, there is something endearing and easier to swallow about the possibility of reform through two comedians lampooning events of the day.
While Maureen Dowd and others may want to make Stewart and Colbert the leaders of the underground, it is time to face facts and expose them for what they really are. Stewart and Colbert have always said, and I imagine they will always say, that they are only comedians looking to make people laugh. While they may have their own personal politics, their political commentary will aim toward amusement rather than poignancy no matter who is in power. Those who don’t watch real news programs, read actual newspapers, or peruse news off of the Internet won’t entirely appreciate the jokes that Stewart and Colbert craft. They aren’t agents for the next youth revolution, they are trying to make us laugh. Maureen Dowd, the media, and anyone else who thinks otherwise needs to relax one evening and watch these two comic geniuses at work. Those looking for changes need to look somewhere else for political leadership and guidance.