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Monday, July 23, 2018

COMEDY AND HONESTY—A book review [M, 7-23-18]

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter..

The actual title is: THE DAILY SHOW (The Book): AN ORAL HISTORY as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff, and Guests, by Chris Smith

I wasn’t sure an oral history of a TV show would work, especially an oral history that was actually print, but because I had watched “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for almost its whole 16 years, and enjoyed and appreciated it, I figured I’d take a chance and ask for it as a Christmas gift. I’m glad I did.

Bottom line: This is a good book if you watched the show a lot, or if you are interested in creativity and the communication process. Otherwise, you probably won’t get much out of it. I got a lot out of it.

I didn’t watch it at night, of course, when it was live. That was well after my bed time. But Comedy Central showed it the next day at noon [in my time zone], so I got to have comedy and honesty with my lunch.

Stephen Colbert says comedy and honesty is what drives Jon Stewart—the desire to be funny and the need to be honest. Perhaps that is why I liked Stewart and the show—I have always wanted to be funny, and I needed to be honest. I think every preacher, every Christian, should be funny and honest.

Or at least honest. There is so much that is bad about honesty, though, that it’s very helpful if we throw in a spoon full of laughter to help the honesty go down.

In addition to enjoying laughs from Stewart and appreciating his pinioning and puncturing of the hypocrisies of those who think they should be our leaders, I am a communications scholar. I wanted to see how it was that he became “the most trusted newscaster” in the nation, while anchoring a fake news show. The answer is, not surprisingly, comedy and honesty, which no other news outlet practiced with the kind of emotional appeal of Stewart and his ilk.

My communication theorist self got a special treat about half-way through the years of the TV show by getting to hear Stewart in person at the IU auditorium, when we made forays out of the Upper Peninsula to thaw out physically and culturally. He just wandered around the stage, talking to 3200 people, twice, chatting with us as though we were in our living room. That was similar to but also very different from the way he communicated on TV. They are, after all, very different sorts of media—one “hot” and one “cool.” But the laughter and honesty worked in both venues. Not everyone can do that.

I was always put off by the profanity and crudeness of Stewart and others on the show. In part, because of my attempt to be a Christian and a civilized and civil person. In part, as a communications scholar who thinks gratuitous profanity and crudeness detracts from the message rather than adds to it. If you want to make the point, the damn [or much worse word] needs to mean something, not just be an unnecessary adjective. But the laughs still came through, and so did the honesty, so I did not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in appreciating “The Daily Show.”

We could use Jon Stewart right now, although I’m not sure that even Stewart could do parody anymore, since our reality is itself a parody of both comedy and honesty.


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