November 1, 2013

“Even Jon Stewart . . . ” and “When you’ve lost Jon Stewart . . . ” Those are the media refrains that Jon Stewart satirized last night on “The Daily Show” amidst all the hubbub over the failures of the Obamacare rollout. In recent weeks, Stewart has been tough on the White House’s management of its healthcare reform, prompting all kinds of media watchers to read a great deal of bellwetherness into the critiques of this media star. Stewart torched all of them, for reasons that aren’t terribly clear to the Erik Wemple Blog. For guidance, we refer to the title of the segment: “Wit Happens: The media reads too much into Jon’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act.”

Here’s how Stewart explained the riff: “Making fun of something — that’s nothing new for us, so don’t act like us making jokes about a certain program or president is evidence that that politician or issue has reached some kind of tipping point for action.”

In what came off like one long whine, Stewart riffed on some of the causes he’s commanded over the years, to little effect. He noted that he’d pounded on George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney. “Did he leave? No,” said Stewart. He noted that he’d pounded on Jim Cramer. “Still on television,” deadpanned Stewart. Toward the end of the riff, a curtain opened to reveal a choir singing about this whole scene.

Playing off the beat, Stewart thundered, “People, I am here to say that the jokes we do on this program seem to accomplish very little . . . Most of the stuff we complain about never changes.”

Now, Stewart has long insisted that he’s a comedian, not an activist, that his show is comedy and not journalism. Yet the line about how little ever changes sounds a lot like the classic lament of the investigative journalist. And reminding your audience of how big a player you’ve become in the national conversation while also highlighting how little you’ve accomplished — that’s an expertly executed humble-brag.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.