Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert extend Glenn Beck parody into uncharted territory
So we kind of knew what was coming for some time now. Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, kept dropping hints about a big announcement. Clearly, it was a shot at Glenn Beck, who had his, well, parody isn’t the right word of Martin Luther King, Jr. Maybe ironic parody, or something close to that mark.
Stewart extended the idea in a run of a few episodes, and then Colbert jumped in with his own take, trying to out-announce Stewart’s announcement.
As parody of Beck, the two comedians were having quite a bit of fun. But there was this lurking question: were the two shows going to have their own Washington Mall rallies? In other words, how far was the joke going to go?
Well, we have some idea now as the two comedians are holding separate rallies on the Mall on October 30. Stewart wants to restore sanity and Colbert wants to instill fear.
Colbert’s yang to Stewart’s yin fits like a glove. After all, Colbert’s original parody of Bill O’Reilly has sometimes slipped into a parody of Glenn Beck. As funny as Stewart has been in mocking Beck, Colbert does it as if Beck were living in is gut, which Colbert fans know is where “Stephen” does his thinking.
Colbert having a fear rally is a almost spot-on parody on the actual site. The two comedians likely figured that having one rally would be a little too close to home, so Stewart’s yin rally is geared to counter the Colbert fear extravaganza.
But Stewart has a core problem with his “restore sanity” issue. Colbert’s idea works better as a rally while Stewart’s works better as a comedic piece in a studio.
The signs that Stewart brought forth were the kind that should be in the hands of people who are upset, But will “sane” people really spend an October afternoon “protesting”?
A familiar rhythm at these events is the host asking “What do we want?” After a response, the follow-up is “When do we want it?”
The problem for Stewart and his writers is “What do we want?”
Sanity, yes. And lots of it. But what does this mean for actual policy? The chants
When Stewart shows examples of craziness, they are designed to show both extreme sides based on footage from cable news coverage. One side is portrayed with typical rhetoric; the other side has words picked out to give some semblance of fair play. At least a comedy show tries to be fair to both sides, something the MSM fails on a regular basis.
But the comparison rings hollow. The true extreme left isn’t allowed on MSM, including MSNBC. Those on the extreme right flow back and forth without a care in the world.
Stewart presented the argument as if the extremes on both sides need to be counterbalanced by the sane. But the extremes on the right – who get carte blanche on cable news and newspapers and magazines (we’re looking at you, Forbes) – need a counter rally all by themselves.
Stewart, of course, can’t do this because he would be exposed as a one-sided pundit, nullifying his impact of his day job, running a comedy show four nights a week.
We will have to see how Stewart balances a number of threads in his actual rally. You will likely see a sanitized version of what we really want to see. The thousands that will turn out to see Stewart (and Colbert) want Stewart to point them in a direction, to help them find a way to get the help they aren’t getting right now. They want a real rally.
Stewart will likely give them a rally but he won’t be the voice of power. Stewart will cry out for sanity, but his focus will be on comedy, not action, Think of it more as a concert than a rally.
During the Daily Show, Stewart – mocking Beck – told us why he picked October 30. He calmly noted that the shows were already going to be in Washington, and that the date was picked around that.
But the significance of the date is real in another sense: the Saturday before Election Day. Candidates will be out at the last minute, trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents. And their actions will be drowned out on that Saturday by two comedians who tell them what politicians and the MSM are afraid to say. But Stewart doesn’t want to be a leader, even if he already is one.