The TV Column: Jon Stewart pulls a deft reversal with cutting satire on Weiner

June 9, 2011

Two days after getting nicked for pulling his punches when covering a news conference by pal Rep. Anthony Weiner, TV’s most influential fake newscaster, Jon Stewart, not only dived into the dirty deep end with the rest of the media — he made himself the star of the story.

A million years ago — last week — Weiner (D-N.Y.) was denying that he sent a lewd photo of himself to a college-age woman on Twitter. He was suggesting his computer had been hacked, and he was insisting that he wasn’t sure whether the crotch in question belonged to him. On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Stewart mostly covered the story then by comically bemoaning how tough it all was, having to make comedy at the expense of a friend.

Stewart weighed the pros and cons of his situation with News Angel Tom Brokaw and Comedy Devil Don Rickles.

He whined about how much he likes and respects Weiner.

He complained about being put in this position and wondered why the congressman was making it worse for Stewart by handling the situation so poorly.


Jon Stewart discusses Rep. Anthony Weiner on "The Daily Show." (Screengrab from thedailyshow.com)

Via his show, Stewart issued a desperate plea to Weiner to come clean: “But if you just had some junk shots on your computer? I mean, come on, dude. It’s a free country!”

But Monday, just hours after Weiner finally acknowledged, in a news conference, that the crotch shot was his and that he had sent it to the woman, Stewart wimped out.

He showed his studio audience, and viewers at home, another photo that had surfaced, of Weiner’s bare chest.

“Wow, that’s some cleavage. Can we zoom in on that?”

Stewart continued, digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole: “You know what’s perhaps the most upsetting thing about having a friend caught up in this? Finding out he’s packing jumbo heat and that he’s ripped. I can’t believe this guy and I are the same age! That’s my problem. How good is the congressional health plan?”

Then he showed a clip of Weiner’s news conference — the part in which he said he’d made terrible mistakes and hurt people he cared about, for which he’s deeply sorry.

“And there you have it. At 4:25 Eastern Standard Time, this story officially became sad,” Stewart said.

“You know, we forget some times . . . that these people are human. And that’s a lesson that’s going to stay with me until I turn back to the camera over there and do a little bit on the John Edwards story.”

One “I don’t know what to do any more. It’s killing me!” later, Stewart was done with the Weiner story.

Now, The Reporters Who Cover Television revere Stewart. When Weiner held his news conference, they clapped their little hands in glee and ran to their DVRs to make sure they had it set to Stewart’s show so as not to miss one precious moment of the comic’s coverage of this super-sensational story.

It was a little like a piranha convention expecting a raw steak banquet, then being fed soy burgers.

“Rep. Weiner Gets a Freebie: Jon Stewart Reflects On How ‘Ripped’ His Friend Is,” screeched Mediaite.

“Jon Stewart went easy on his pal Anthony Weiner. He was the only one,” blasted Entertainment Weekly.

Real nasty stuff.

But the next night, Stewart made one of the greatest recoveries in made-for-TV history.

He actually opened up a vein.

Stewart began Tuesday’s show with a news conference of his own, which parodied Weiner’s, including the rampant bottled-water guzzling.

“I have made some mistakes, and I have hurt those closest to me. Last Friday, a congressman, whose name is synonymous with a sexual organ, sent a photo of — it — to a young woman on Twitter. It was, by any standard, a gift from whatever comedians have that takes the place of God.”

Stewart stopped guzzling bottled water and mixed himself a cosmo.

“Yesterday, Congressman Weiner confessed the penis in question was, in fact, his own,” Stewart continued. “He did so at a press conference at 4:30 in the afternoon. We tape our program at 6. I made the decision to do a couple of Weiner jokes but to mostly stick to the script we’d written . . . about Edwards and Sarah Palin. This was my decision alone. I recognize how wrong I was.”

Stewart paused again — this time to make himself a frozen strawberry margarita. Only he cut his wrist on his glass and began to bleed.

“I’m probably going to need to go to the hospital,” Stewart said as he soldiered on.

“I brought pain to people I care about: my staff, my audience, my beautiful and exotic family. I did not explicitly state I thought Mr. Weiner had been deceitful, he was a liar and that I believed his pants to be on fire.”

As a producer tossed Stewart a rag with which to try to staunch the blood flow, “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver blasted Stewart for having failed, the day before, to “give this audience the pre-pubescent jokes they waited outside in 90-degree temperatures for.”

The media forgave Stewart immediately, enthusing about his “must-see, keen-witted parody” of Weiner.

But Stewart, having learned his lesson and gotten over the whole “friendship thing” in record time, wasn’t finished. Because he’d discovered that Weiner and that blackjack-dealing chick with whom he sexted had given Stewart maybe the Greatest Gift of All.

They’d exchanged text messages about sex.

And about “The Daily Show.”

Simultaneously.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

Weiner: “Make me an offer I can’t refuse.”

Lady in question: “To get us in the mood, first we watch back to back episodes of ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Colbert Report.’ ”

“What mood are they going to get into?” Stewart wondered gleefully on Wednesday’s show.

Lady in question: “Or if this [is] not your thing we can just get drunk and have mad passionate sex.”

Weiner: “Why choose?”

Weiner then suggested they accomplish this feat by choosing a sexual pose that would enable both to watch Stewart’s show.

“First of all, is this what you people are doing at home when our show is on?” Stewart asked viewers at home.

“I mean, we spent all day writing and producing this thing. If it’s just going to be background noise for your amorous — are you people [having sex] right now?” he demanded to know.

“Is that what you people want? Fine! I’m not going to fight you!”

And then, Stewart waited while a shirtless, ripped “Daily Show” staffer played sexy music on a sax while standing in front of a screen montage of various Washington government buildings.

“Hard to believe that Jon Stewart could get any funnier or more biting about Weinergate but he did on Wednesday night,” the trade publication TV Week gushed Thursday morning. “Yet another can’t miss Stewart segment that everyone will be talking about.”

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