The Role and Impact of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Taking Satire Seriously On A "Daily Show" Basis

By Matthew E. Popkin
2012, Vol. 4 No. 09 | pg. 12/12 |

The Role of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Concluding Remarks

While The Daily Show is clearly comedic entertainment, it also provides valuable oversight of the American democratic process and political system. By constantly highlighting inconsistent, hypocritical, and unfounded claims, The Daily Show works to foster better discourse. Through sarcasm and humor, the show confronts political dissembling and inaccuracies, demanding a more accountable media and government.107

The program’s critiques of specific networks and of the media more generally seek to make the news and journalistic process more accountable to viewers. Geoffrey Baym argued in 2005 that The Daily Show sought to “revive a spirit of critical inquiry” that had dissipated after 9/11.108 Stewart’s now famous Crossfire appearance was perhaps the pinnacle of Stewart’s criticism during the early existence of The Daily Show. Yet, since 2005, Stewart and The Daily Show have engaged in even more focused and harsh criticisms of the media, with the Cramer interviews likely being the peak in recent years. Both the Crossfire and Cramer segments are examples of the fact that Stewart has sparked multiple public and scholarly debates over the role of the media and the issue of to whom the media are responsible.

Moreover, Stewart, in his own interviews, has taken the initiative to demonstrate a more reasoned and substantive televised discussion, often debating serious political and philosophical issues with both those with whom he agrees and those with whom he disagrees. Stewart’s interviews, like many other satirical critiques of the media and political process, are motivated by the lack of rational discourse that regularly pervade the democratic process.109 The Internet allows Stewart’s interviews to not be restricted by scheduling and policies, and The Daily Show fully utilizes its online extended interviews, which sometimes last over half an hour.

Furthermore, the program’s effectiveness in identifying the hypocrisy of prominent political and media figures drives home Stewart’s message that claims, beliefs, and arguments of such figures should not always be taken at face value. An informed citizenry is necessary to holding its leaders accountable, and the show helps to inform by, in part, pointing out the contradictions that are made by prominent political figures.

Despite being a late-night comedy program on cable television, The Daily Show is not limited by its late-night time slot. Comedy Central replays the program twice a day, once in the early afternoon and once in the early evening. The show is also available online such that anyone with Internet access can watch any segment of the show since 1999. With the emergence of online , the video links are embedded frequently on The Huffington Post website and shared through Facebook, Twitter and other online networking sites. Thus, the program’s reach is not limited to its late night television audience, and it is connecting with an ever-expanding audience as new online methods develop.

Stewart’s reach and gravitas increased dramatically with his appearance on Crossfire in 2004, where he drew much attention, both positive and negative, for stepping out of his typical comedic role. In addition to engaging CNBC and Jim Cramer in early 2009, Stewart took on Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor in February 2010. O’Reilly and Stewart had crossed paths before, but Stewart’s lengthy appearance on The O’Reilly Factor marked a turning point in their interaction, with the discussion focusing heavily on Stewart’s criticism of Fox News. The New York Times described Stewart as having “delivered one of the most sustained criticisms of Fox News ever heard on Fox News.”110 Stewart claimed that the network had become a “cyclonic perpetual emotion machine” that had “taken reasonable concerns about [President Obama] and [the] economy and turned [them] into a full-fledged panic about the next coming of Chairman Mao.”111 He further insinuated that Fox News had lost its credibility as a news organization. Like some of his previous engagements in media criticism, Stewart once again drew significant attention, both positive and negative, for his criticisms of Fox News.

Additionally, in 2005, The Daily Show led to a spin-off show on Comedy Central, The Colbert Report, with host and former Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert. The two shows regularly have interaction between the two hosts, and Colbert, taking on a conservative television pundit persona, acts as a mock counterweight to Stewart. On October 30, 2010, Stewart and Colbert hosted the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The rally drew hundreds of thousands and was an overall light event, interspersed with serious moments intended to bring attention to and ultimately reduce the extreme rhetoric that permeated the political process and media, and to promote a more moderate voice and a sense of reason. The rally attracted massive media attention leading up to and following the rally. And just as The Daily Show episodes are available online, so too is the rally, where millions have viewed the videos.

The Daily Show has raised serious concerns about the media and political process, such as questioning the role of the 24-hour cable news networks and financial news networks to questioning how information is portrayed and disseminated across the airwaves. With the Crossfire and Cramer interviews, Stewart elevated these concerns and debates from The Daily Show audience to a national audience. Further exemplified by the 9/11 first responders health care saga, Stewart and The Daily Show team have experimented with issue advocacy, both through satire and sincere passion. It is unclear whether that type of advocacy was an anomaly or whether it will become a recurring theme. However, it is quite clear that The Daily Show was remarkably effective in its handling of the issue, bringing it to the forefront of the national debate and influencing the result.

Thus, The Daily Show is a check on the democratic process, with regard to both the media and the political process itself. Moreover, while it is a check that is by no means required, it is one that most certainly has become influential and important to a healthy, functioning . To the dismay of media critics and scholars, The Daily Show does not fit neatly into a specific classification of programming. However, it is clear what The Daily Show is not. It is not, for the most part, a fake news show. It is not just a comedy show. Yet, it is not a news show. It is a satirical commentary show that seeks to foster more reasoned discourse in an effort to create a more accountable democratic process. In essence, The Daily Show is not the lens through which an issue or the political process should be viewed, but it is a valuable perspective that should be considered. So take The Daily Show with Jon Stewart with a grain of salt – but also take it seriously.


Endnotes

1.) Baym, Geoffrey. “The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism.” Political Communication. 2005. 22: 3, 259-276.

Brewer, Paul R. and Emily Marquardt. “Mock News and Democracy: Analyzing The Daily Show.” Atlantic Journal of Communication. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 2007. 15:4, 249-267.

4.) “Remembering Anna.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. February 12, 2007. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-12-2007/remembering-anna>.

5.) “Shut Up Mark Sanford.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. July 12, 2009. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-july-2-2009/shut-up--mark-sanford>.

6.) “The Wedding of the Century of the Millennium.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. August 2, 2010. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-august-2-2010/wedding-of-the-decade-of-the-century-of-the-millennium >.

“Headlines Duke Lacrosse Rape Allegations.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. April 18, 2006. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-april-18-2006/headlines---duke-lacrosse-rape-allegations>.

9.) “Headlines Duke Lacrosse Rape Allegations.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. April 18, 2006. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-april-18-2006/headlines---duke-lacrosse-rape-allegations>.

10.) “Journalism, Satire or Just Laughs? ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ Examined.” Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. N.p., May 8, 2008. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.journalism.org/node/10953>.

11.) Who the f@#k is that guy? – Political Experts.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 22, 2008. Web. October 28, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-october-22-2008/who-the-f--k-is-that-guy----political-experts>.

13.) “Hi Tech News Coverage.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 9, 2008. Web. October 28, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-9-2008/hi-tech-news-coverage>.

14.) “Speech Therapy.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 28, 2010. Web. November 4, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-28-2010/speech-therapy---post-racial>.

15.) “CNN Leaves It There.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 12, 2009. Web. November 1, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-12-2009/cnn-leaves-it-there>.

17.) “CNN Leaves It There.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 12, 2009. Web. November 1, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-12-2009/cnn-leaves-it-there>.

18.) “MSNBC Left Behind.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 11, 2010. Web. November 3, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-11-2010/msnbc-left-behind>.

19.) “Keith Olbermann’s Name Calling.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 21, 2010. Web. November 4, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-21-2010/special-comment---keith-olbermann-s-name-calling>.

20.) “Speech Therapy.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 28, 2010. Web. November 4, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-january-28-2010/speech-therapy---post-racial>.

21.) “Fox News.Com.” Fox News Network, LLC. November 4, 2010. 2010. <http://www.foxnews.com/>.

22.) “For Fox Sake.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 29, 2009. Web. November 4, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-october-29-2009/for-fox-sake->.

24.) “Anchor Management.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 3, 2010. Web. November 4, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-3-2010/anchor-management>.

“Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 8, 2009. Web. November 6, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-8-2009/gretchen-carlson-dumbs-down>.

“Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck’s Protest Footage.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. November 10, 2009. Web. November 6, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-november-10-2009/sean-hannity-uses-glenn-beck-s-protest-footage>.

33.) “Sean Hannity Apologizes to Jon.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. November 12, 2009. Web. July 16, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-november-12-2009/sean-hannity-apologizes-to-jon>.

34.) “Are You Ready For Some Midterms? – MSNBC’s Political Narrative.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. September 9, 2010. Web. November 6, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-9-2010/are-you-ready-for-some-midterms----msnbc-s-political-narrative>.

35.) “Kurtz criticizes Hannity's "careful editing" of Obama speech: "Isn't that kind of editing, what's the word, deceptive?" Media Matters For America. September 12, 2010. Web. November 6, 2010. >;.

36.) “Bernie Goldberg Fires Back.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. April 20, 2010. Web. November 6, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-april-20-2010/bernie-goldberg-fires-back>.

37.) “Top TV Feuds: Jon Stewart vs. Crossfire.” TIME. Time.com. 2010. <http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884499_1884515_1884462,00.html>.

Gollmitzer, Mirjam. "Towards a Media Incidents Theory: How "Adversarial Guests" Ruin Programs and Liberate the Audience."Conference Papers -- International Communication Association(2009): 1-20. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2010.

44.) Douthat, Ross. “Can CNN Be Saved?” The New York Times. April 4, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/opinion/05douthat.html>.

Snow, Nancy. “Jon Stewart: Still the Most Trusted Newscaster in America.” The Huffington Post. July 23, 2009. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-snow/jon-stewart-still-the-mos_b_243646.html>.

47.) Gollmitzer, Mirjam. "Towards a Media Incidents Theory: How "Adversarial Guests" Ruin Programs and Liberate the Audience."Conference Papers -- International Communication Association(2009): 1-20.Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 20 Nov. 2010.

“CNBC Financial Advice.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 4, 2009. Web. November 20, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-march-4-2009/cnbc-financial-advice>.

52.) Cramer, Jim. “Cramer Takes on White House, Frank Rich, and Jon Stewart.” The Street. MainStreet.com. March 10, 2009. <http://www.mainstreet.com/article/moneyinvesting/news/cramer-takes-white-house-frank-rich-and-jon-stewart?page=4>.

“In Cramer We Trust.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 9, 2009. Web. November 20, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-9-2009/in-cramer-we-trust>.

“Basic Cable Personality Clash Skirmish.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 10, 2009. Web. November 20, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-march-10-2009/basic-cable-personality-clash-skirmish--09>.

“Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 1.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 12, 2009. Web. November 21, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-extended-interview-pt--1>.

“Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 2.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 12, 2009. Web. November 21, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-extended-interview-pt--2>.

“Jim Cramer Extended Interview Pt. 3.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 12, 2009. Web. November 21, 2010. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-extended-interview-pt--3>.

64.) Snow, Nancy. “Jon Stewart: Still the Most Trusted Newscaster in America.” The Huffington Post. July 23, 2009. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-snow/jon-stewart-still-the-mos_b_243646.html>.

65.) , Lisa Respers. “Stewart seen as winner in Showdown with Cramer.” March 19, 2009. CNN.com. 2009. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/03/13/cramer.stewart.reaction/index.html?iref=allsearch>.

66.) Carlson, Tucker. “How Jon Stewart Went Bad.” The Daily Beast: Blogs & Stories. March 18, 2009. RTST, Inc. 2010. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-03-18/how-jon-stewart-went-bad/>.

67.) Fisher, Lu. “Jon Stewart Wins Cramer Showdown.” March 13, 2009. ABC News Internet Ventures. 2010. <http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/Television/story?id=7075368&page=1>.

68.) Cohen, Richard. “Don’t Blame Jim Cramer.” The Washington Post. March 17, 2009. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2009/03/16/AR2009031602319.html>.

France, Lisa Respers. “Stewart seen as winner in Showdown with Cramer.” March 19, 2009. CNN.com. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/03/13/cramer.stewart.reaction/index.html?iref=allsearch>.

“Journalism, Satire or Just Laughs? ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ Examined.” Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. N.p., May 8, 2008. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.journalism.org/node/10953>.

72.) “Mike Huckabee Pt.2.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 9, 2008. Web. April 21, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-december-9-2008/mike-huckabee-pt--2>.

“Newt Gingrich.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. February 9, 2010. Web. April 21, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-february-9-2010/newt-gingrich>.

“Exclusive John Yoo Extended Interview Pt.1.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 11, 2010. Web. April 21, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-11-2010/exclusive---john-yoo-extended-interview-pt--1>.

77.) “Exclusive Marc Thiessen Extended Interview Pt.1.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. March 9, 2010. Web. April 21, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-march-9-2010/exclusive---marc-thiessen-extended-interview-pt--1>.

78.) Douthat, Ross. “Can CNN Be Saved?” The New York Times. April 4, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/opinion/05douthat.html>.

79.) “Exclusive John Yoo Extended Interview Pt.3.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 11, 2010. Web. April 21, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-11-2010/exclusive---john-yoo-extended-interview-pt--3>.

80.) “ Pt.1.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. October 27, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-october-27-2010/barack-obama-pt--1>.

81.) “Eye to Eye: Obama on Stewart (CBS News).” CBS News. YouTube. August 23, 2007. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f3nQPJfgPo&feature=fvw>.

“Journalism, Satire or Just Laughs? ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ Examined.” Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. N.p., May 8, 2008. Web. October 26, 2010. <http://www.journalism.org/node/10953>.

84.) Douthat, Ross. “Can CNN Be Saved?” The New York Times. April 4, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/opinion/05douthat.html>.

85.) Baym, Geoffrey. “The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism.” Political Communication. 2005. 22: 3, 259-276.

86.) “So You Think You Can Douche.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. July 29, 2009. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-29-2009/so-you-think-you-can-douche>.

87.) “Sarah Palin Gender Card.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. September 3, 2008. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-september-3-2008/sarah-palin-gender-card>.

88.) “Sarah Palin Gender Card.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. September 3, 2008. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-september-3-2008/sarah-palin-gender-card>.

89.) “Postcards From the Pledge.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. September 23, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-23-2010/postcards-from-the-pledge>.

90.) “Postcards From the Pledge.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. September 23, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-23-2010/postcards-from-the-pledge>.

“Moral Kombat.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. May 14, 2009. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-may-14-2009/moral-kombat>.

93.) Shear, Michael. “From Jon Stewart, Echoes of G.O.P. Past.” The New York Times. September 24, 2010. <http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/from-jon-stewart-echoes-of-g-o-p-past/?scp=1&sq=jon%20stewart%20postcards%20from%20the%20pledge&st=cse>.

94.) Gore, Al. The Assault on Reason. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 2007. 111.

95.) “I Give Up – 9/11 Responders.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. August 4, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-august-4-2010/i-give-up---9-11-responders-bill>.

96.) “Republicans Block 9/11 Health Care Bill.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 9, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-december-9-2010/republicans-block-9-11-health-care-bill>.

97.) “Worst Responders.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 16, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-december-16-2010/worst-responders>.

98.) “9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 16, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-december-16-2010/9-11-first-responders-react-to-the-senate-filibuster>.

99.) “Exclusive – Mike Huckabee Extended Interview.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. December 16, 2010. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-december-16-2010/exclusive---mike-huckabee-extended-interview>.

100.) Newton-Small, Jay. “Did Jon Stewart Turn the Tide on the 911 First Responders Bill?” TIME: Swampland. December 20, 2010. Time, Inc. 2011. <http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/12/20/did-jon-stewart-turn-the-tide-on-the-911-first-responders-bill/>.

101.) “New Hope for 9/11 Heroes.” FOX NEWS. Fox News Network, LLC. December 20, 2010. <http://video.foxnews.com/v/4469087/new-hope-for-911-heroes>.

102.) Hernandez, Raymond. “Senate Passes 9/11 Health Bill as Republicans Back Down.” The New York Times. December 22, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/nyregion/23health.html?_r=1>.

103.) Madison, Lucy. “White House Lauds Jon Stewart for Pushing Passage of 9/11 Health Bill.” CBS News.com. Political Hotsheet. December 21, 2010. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20026333-503544.html>.

Carter, Bill and Brian Stelter. “In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill, Echoes of Murrow.” The New York Times. December 26, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/business/media/27stewart.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1>.

“Kirsten Gillibrand.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. January 4, 2011. Web. April 30, 2011. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-4-2011/kirsten-gillibrand>.

Baym, Geoffrey. “The Daily Show: Discursive Integration and the Reinvention of Political Journalism.” Political Communication. 2005. 22: 3, 259-276.

110.) Stelter, Brian. “In Visit to Fox News, Jon Stewart Faults Fox News.” The New York Times. February 5, 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/arts/television/06fox.html?scp=2&sq=jon%20stewart&st=cse>.

111.) “Entire Jon Stewart Interview.” FOX NEWS. Fox News Network, LLC. February 4, 2010. <http://video.foxnews.com/v/4003531/entire-jon-stewart-interview/>.

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