Monday, August 07, 2006


Jon Stewart is an impeccably likable persona, but that doesn’t explain his popularity among politically-savvy crowds. It’s not like they give a flip about Conan O’Brien— although I would argue that they should. But while O’Brien is seen as something of a slapstick artist, Stewart has been accepted as a mainstream satirist, with a strong vein of topical humor coursing through his program’s panache. The Daily Show creates satire with television news techniques by appropriating the medium’s methodology for delivering information. As host, Stewart uses the narrative gathered by the mainstream media and reassembles it,[1] creating a formula for comedic discourse that relies on preexisting, unaltered documentary (meaning real world) footage. On most occasions, the mechanism for the jokes is derived from topics of reportage aired on more conventional news programming. The early segments of the show implement video clips that are analyzed through a formal configuration, but the resulting sequence is fundamentally different from its structural precedent. By introducing the clip and then showing it, Stewart sets up a joke, and delivers the punchline after the clip plays. This illustrates how the show can function, as one academic has suggested, “as both entertainment and news, simultaneously pop culture and public affairs.”[2]

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