An Unfunny Affair
On last Thursday's edition of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart gave voice to a boiling frustration felt by thousands of beleaguered Americans as he mercilessly grilled CNBC commentator Jim Cramer.
The thrust of Stewart's argument was directed at the cable business network's punditry at large for being in the pockets of Wall Street interests, while purporting to give sound investment advice to middle-income Americans – resulting in financial ruin for many when the markets went into a tailspin late last year.
Cramer's much-hyped guest appearance came after a week of back-and-forth sniping from Stewart and the talking heads of various NBC networks. The hubbub originated on March 4th with a scathing and hilarious critique of CNBC delivered in classic form via the Daily Show hallmark, a videoclip montage highlighting the network's truly terrible advice leading up to the crash.
"If I'd only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars today," quipped Stewart, "provided I'd started with a hundred million dollars."
Though Jim Cramer and his inane Mad Money program were merely a sidebar in Stewart's attack, on-air rebuttals from the manic moneyman thrust him in the center ring of a media circus that promised its grand finale Thursday night on Comedy Central.
For a spoof news show hosted by a comedian, the interview was nothing to laugh at.
"I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a f***ing game," Stewart chided.
Much like his devastating dressing-down of CNN's Crossfire program in 2004 (a critique which led to the long-running show's cancellation a few months later), Jon Stewart's mano a mano with Jim Cramer is an incisive and well-deserved assault on the mainstream news media's most obscene failings. It has also been a grand slam with bloggers and media critics, earning kudos from the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, and The Atlantic's James Fallows, who compared Stewart to Edward R. Murrow.
In online discussions of the cable TV feud, many commenters lament that it takes ersatz newsmen like Jon Stewart and Comedy Central co-conspirator Stephen Colbert to do the real work of journalism. I say, let's embrace the paradox. Laughter is a healing force in itself, and sometimes the unvarnished truth is easier to digest when it's disguised as a punchline. When properly delivered, the gravity is not lost for levity.
Besides, as Stewart so skillfully displayed last Thursday, the comedy is secondary to the message – and sometimes it's just not funny.
Watch the unedited, uncensored interview here.
(And in case you missed it, check out Stephen Colbert's face-to-face send-up of George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner – a legendary moment in satirical history.)