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Why Are TV's Court Jesters Making the Most Sense? And The Most News?
September 22, 2010  | By David Bianculli

On Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are mounting a Washington, D.C. rally that may end up being one of the biggest political stories of the season. Meanwhile, on HBO, Bill Maher is making news by resurrecting old Politically Incorrect clips featuring current Tea Party heroine Christine O'Donnell. What's going on here? Why are our politically interested comics making more sense, and news, than anyone else around right now?

Because, I fear, they may have the most credibility -- especially with younger viewers. And you know what? I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week, the host of that program flipped the idea of the old "Silent Majority" on its edge, reclaiming it as a majority of quiet reason -- and calling on those people to join him, at the Washington Mall on Saturday, Oct. 30, for a RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY.

Why don't we hear, Stewart asked, from the 70-80 percent of people who aren't protesting at Tea Party rallies and other venues, drawn to TV lights like moths to flames?

"Most likely," he guesses, talking to his audience directly, "because you have ____ to do."


He called his rally, and his movement, "a clarion call for rationality." And beneath all the jokes, it was precisely that. As for actually bothering to attend a RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY, Stewart adds, "You may be asking yourself right now, sitting at home, 'But am I the right type of person to go to this rally?'

"The fact that you would even stop to ASK yourself that question," he adds...

...and the smile on his face proves his point before he even concludes his sentence.

Later, to make things even easier on possible visitors, Stewart offers examples of hand-painted signs that will be handed out at the rally. They, too, are funny, lonely voices of reason.


On the other hand, on the same night, Stewart's Daily Show Comedy Central spinoff series, The Colbert Report, threw down its own gauntlet, announcing a simultaneous rally -- same time, same place, different message.

Stephen Colbert's rallying cry, in the spirit of his over-the-top conservative commentator persona, was KEEP FEAR ALIVE. He announced it by draping himself in the image of the Lincoln Memorial, and by turning Stewart's "reasonable" rally into an instant classic star feud. Fred Allen, Jack Benny, take that.

What a brilliant idea. You can watch Stewart's entire piece setting up the rally HERE.


Then, to complete the twofer, Stephen Colbert's foamy counter-rally proposal can be seen HERE.

Interest in, and news about, this rally will only intensify in the coming weeks. And if you go, look for a bearded guy in a loud Hawaiian shirt... because I'll probably be there as well.

Seems like a reasonable thing to do...


Meanwhile, tune to HBO tonight (Wednesday) at 11 ET for a rerun of last Friday's season premiere of Real Time with Bill Maher, in which the host unveiled an 11-year-old clip featuring Christine O'Donnell on his old ABC series, Politically Incorrect.


In it, the Tea Party candidate who upset the Senate race in Delaware by winning the GOP primary, admits to, among other things, having "dabbled in witchcraft."

After Maher unearthed and played the clip on Friday, O'Donnell, whose political platform includes being opposed to masturbation, cancelled scheduled weekend appearances with national TV shows, and said between now and election day she'd deal only with local media.

Perhaps we've misunderstood or misheard this particular politician. Perhaps what Christine O'Donnell is really against is not masturbating, but mass debating.

Regardless, Maher announced on last week's show that he had clips of nearly two dozen other Politically Incorrect appearances by O'Donnell, and that he likened his power position to a hostage situation. Come on his Real Time show, he told her, or he'd reach into his vault of old clips and "throw out one body a week."

Here's the clip:

Now THAT'S entertainment.

And, like what Stewart and Colbert are concocting for next month, it's also news, and may even have a measurable political impact.

So what's so funny about TV's court jesters?

Or, to put it another way: What have the REAL news commentators and analysts done for us lately?




SharonGS said:

Jon Stewart's rally is the first I have wanted to attend in decades, and I certainly hope to be there despite the fact that I am well beyond the target demographic. In fact, if my WWII vet father is well enough, he'll probably come as well. It's time for sane, rational people to stand up and ask--politely, of course, but firmly--for reasoned debate about solutions to this country's problems.

[Hey -- maybe we should plan a TV WORTH WATCHING mini-rally, and figure out a place to meet to all enjoy the rally together. Whattya think? Does that sound... reasonable? -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 12:40 PM

Neil said:

Old saying: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

New saying: When all politics succumb to the absurd, trust only those whose job is to traffic in the absurd.

Alternate: When all the adults have left the building, all that's left are the kids and the kidders.

[I like BOTH sayings. Nice. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 1:52 PM

Scott M said:

> Perhaps what Christine O'Donnell is really against is not masturbating, but mass debating.

Heh heh. Good one, David.

It's astonishing to me that the most (only?) intelligent discourse on news/politics comes from these two satirical shows. I'd certainly attend the rally if not for my West Coast residency. That, and I *do* have a lot of sh*t to do...

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 1:53 PM

Sarah said:

As a Daily Show viewer since Jon Stewart became host, this has been the most exciting idea he has ever had. Jon is my hero, and since "Indecision 2000," followed by the first protesters against Bush came out, I have wanted something like this and am looking for a way to attend. If I go I will be the one with his suggested sign about being "afraid of spiders" and one of my own: big, bright and with one word "Squirrel!"

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 2:25 PM

Mac said:

I just read a pundit wondering the effect if Stewart + Colbert attract more than Beck+ Palin. It's quite possible. I guess only the fact that college football is really cranked up by that Sat. and many Comedy Central fans are college grads or undergrads. Also, the last weekend before election day means lots of door knocking by candidate volunteers, many volunteering for school credit. If I was a little younger and could move through a crowd quickly, I'd be down there, wearing my coveted Pogo t-shirt and a sign with Walt Kelly's most famous quote: "We have met the enemy and he is us." I'm hoping some local versions, at least large city mini-gatherings, would happen. Genius on Comedy Central's part, and they have a much more balanced version of the news, by offending everyone, than Faux News' fairly, kinda, occasionally balanced version of the world's events. Return to truthiness!

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 2:56 PM

R.Orr said:

Awesome Dave...spot on. Daily Show and Real Time are essential viewing for me...I'm happy to read that you agree.

I'll be attending the rally. If you are there and there's a small tv worth watching mini-rally...I'd love to meet you. I've been reading your blog now for a while. It's essential reading for me most every day...when I can. Thank you so much.

[You're welcome. And keep reading for rally plans, unless I chicken out. I'll keep you posted. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 23, 2010 10:32 AM

Tausif Khan said:

That is the point of Comedy. Comedy is supposed to cut through societal convention and tell us "the truth" no matter how ugly it is. However, unfortunately for jesters, they were at the mercy of royalty. Because of democracy, we can all hear truth, if we are willing to listen.

Although some would argue that Jon Stewart is undercutting his own point by holding a rally. A rally steps a bit away from reason and into the subjective part of ourselves.

Comment posted on September 23, 2010 11:11 AM

Angela said:

I'm so glad you wrote about this as I didn't know it was happening and it's the best news I've heard in ages.

It gives me hope.

Your idea for a TV WORTH WATCHING mini rally is a good one too.

Please keep us posted and I'll do my part.

Comment posted on September 23, 2010 6:16 PM

James said:

I'm coming to attend this rally from a far place, and I'm bringing people with me. I hope this thing becomes massive. Too massive to ignore.

Comment posted on September 25, 2010 7:50 PM

Tony Barr said:

Hunter S. Thompson-- "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Comment posted on September 26, 2010 9:41 AM

Dan Ang said:

"Perhaps what Christine O'Donnell is really against is not masturbating, but mass debating."


[Thanks for noticing. I'm proud of that one myself. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 27, 2010 8:02 AM
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