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Jon Stewart from The Daily Show: Comedian First or Political Hack?

June 27, 2011

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show goes on a FOX News program and gets interviewed by Chris Wallace.  When Stewart says that his job is more difficult than Chris Wallace’s, Wallace looks shocked.

“How can that be?” Wallace asks as a follow-up.

“You only have to write these dumb*** questions,” Stewart says.  “I’m the one who has to answer them.”


Yes, we made up that dialogue, but the interview happened, and we’ll get to that later.  But first, we have to set up a major announcement.


The Daily Show made news recently by launching its “Indecision 2012” campaign for the upcoming presidential election.

Indecision?  2012?

C’mon, not only is that an old bit, it doesn’t even make sense anymore.

The original Indecision campaign (if I remember correctly) was in response to the Bush-Gore recounts back in 2000.  The term Indecision 2000 made sense then because the country had seemed… indecisive.  Now?  The term no longer works, but The Daily Show keeps using it.

I hear Jon Stewart also tells hilarious Y2K jokes.



We at Dysfunctional Literacy don’t care if Jon Stewart makes fun of FOX News or Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly.  We don’t care whose viewers are better informed.  We don’t care if Jon Stewart’s job is harder than Chris Wallace’s (because from our point of view, neither of them is really “working”).  But we are interested if Jon Stewart is being honest when he says that he is a comedian first, or if he’s being dishonest and using his comedy to promote his political views.


It probably isn’t.  But it’s more fun than discussing fiscal issues or foreign policy.   At the same time, Stewart’s accused others of being political hacks, and it would be fun to see if he is a hack too but just a funny hack.


  • His television show is on Comedy Central.  That would imply that the comedy is more important than anything else.
  • Stewart is actually funny sometimes.  Most hacks aren’t funny.  If they are funny, it’s usually unintentional.
  • Stewart says he’s a comedian first.  People, to some extent, should be allowed to define themselves, and the burden of proof is on others to prove they are lying.


  •  His enemy is FOX News.  Most of the time a comedian’s enemy is another comedian, maybe one who steals material or hits on girlfriends.  John Stewart’s enemy should be Stephen Colbert for leaving his show and starting one of his own.  If your arch-enemy is a news channel with a political slant, you might not be into the comedy first.
  • He held a rally.  Comedians don’t hold rallies.  They perform.  The average person does not travel to Washington D.C. to see a comedian perform; they go to Washington D.C. to be a part of something bigger than themselves (sometimes that’s called activism, but Stewart says he’s not an activist either).  The average person waits for the comedian to come to them in a local club or arena.
  • He argues with pundits instead of telling jokes when interviewed.  This suggests that he is either not funny without his writers, or he has a cause that is more important than humor.  Comedians don’t argue with pundits; hacks argue with pundits.


We don’t want to get into a high blood pressure argument about whether or not Jon Stewart is a comedian first or a hack first.  It’s an interesting topic, but it’s not one worth losing friendships (or potential readers) over.  However, we asked the question.  We’re not going to be wimpy and not answer it.

So the answer is… Jon Stewart is a political hack.


It was 2004.  Jon Stewart was a guest on a CNN show called Crossfire.  At one time, Crossfire had been a great show, a relevant show (CNN? Relevant?  Yes, Grasshopper, there was a time long, long ago when CNN was relevant.), but by 2004 it had fallen on hard times.  FOX News had surpassed CNN in ratings, and the Crossfire hosts at that time didn’t have the charisma of the show’s founders.  That evening when Jon Stewart was the guest, the people at Crossfire probably thought they were going to have a light-hearted show with a hip comedian, and instead, they got blindsided.

Stewart got into an intense argument with (kind of) conservative host Tucker Carlson and said that shows like Crossfire were hurting the political process (as opposed to comedy shows that treat serious issues like they’re jokes, but that’s for another day).  At that time Crossfire didn’t have the ratings to affect political discourse, but nobody from Crossfire mentioned that in their defense.  In hindsight, somebody from the show probably should have.  A few months later, Crossfire was cancelled and replaced by a bunch of long forgotten programs that didn’t improve CNN ratings.  Whatever CNN’s problems were at the time, the political discourse on Crossfire probably wasn’t one of them.

Getting back to the comedian/hack argument, if you’re a comedian, you don’t argue with Tucker Carlson on Crossfire; you make fun of him.  You make fun of his bow tie (which he eventually stopped wearing).  You make fun of his dancing skills (which unfortunately we didn’t know about in 2004).  You make fun of his hair.  You make fun of Paul Begala’s facial expressions.  You make fun of Crossfire’s studio audience whooping it up like drunks at a strip club.  You make fun of CNN’s low ratings.  But you don’t argue with the host or tell him his show is damaging the political process.  That’s rude, and it’s not funny.

If this had happened only once, then it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But Stewart’s gone after other news personalities and lectured them or lectured about them.  Comedians don’t do that.  The brilliance of this from Stewart’s point of view is that pundits and politicians don’t know how to handle it.  If you argue with a comedian (or somebody who’s supposed to be one), you look stupid.  If you sit there and go along with it, you look like a chump.  If his shtick were simply to make pundits look stupid, then that could be comedic, but these confrontations are serious and awkward, and they aren’t funny.

So whatever it’s about, it’s not about the comedy.

Therefore, the final verdict is that Jon Stewart is a hack first and a comedian second.

If you don’t like the verdict, remember, this is a comedy(?) blog, so you’re not supposed to take what we say seriously.


UPDAE- June, 2018

Yeesh, that old post was long-winded.  If you actually read the whole thing… why?  And why was I referring to myself as “we”?  There must have been something seriously wrong with me (that went undiagnosed) back then.

From → Dysfunctileaks

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