So we turn now to the question on everyone’s lips: Will the Stewart/Colbert rally tomorrow be funny? Or will it be a kind of medley, a skosh funny here and a tad serious there? And whichever it is, does it really matter?
Judging by the published opinions of much of the chattering class, it does. Writing in Politico, Ben Smith says: “Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ on the Mall Saturday has occasioned handwringing from some devoted fans who worry that he’s losing his outsider credibility, and celebration from some Democrats who hope to channel his energy to advance their electoral prospects.”
Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, Carlos Losada writes that “this rally just doesn’t feel right. When all is well with the universe, you’re the guy mercilessly mocking people who hold rallies, not the guy organizing them. The (rally) just feels a little too – what’s the word – earnest for you.”
In what may be a preview of the Act on the Mall, Stewart interviewed President Obama on the “Daily Show” Wednesday night. The comedic high point of the interview came when, in reply to Obama’s defense of his former economic adviser, Larry Summers (“Summers did a heckuva job”), Stewart said: “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”
Perhaps anticipating that there would be those, like Dana Milbank, who would see this remark as something less than hilarious, Stewart put on display the Full Monty of his political perspicacity. Quoth the great man to the President: “ You ran with such, if I may say, audacity – yet legislatively it has felt timid at times.”
Never mind for a minute the mind-bending dissonance and transparent grandstanding in this observation – had Obama been any more aggressive he would have been characterized as a kind of latter day Visigoth – the really interesting question is how long would it take Stewart’s joke writers to come up with maybe a dozen parodies of this remark?
In the end, the guess here is that none of this matters much. At a time when millions of people are unemployed or underemployed, and millions more are within a week or two of having their homes foreclosed, political humor is probably not going to be widely appreciated right now.
The choices available to Stewart and Colbert are to be funny but not relevant, or relevant (to some) but not funny to most. Or, they can try to straddle the two, but at the risk that, at a bad time in the life of the country, they are seen as mostly just interested in aggrandizing themselves.
*What Aeschylus said to his tailor.
The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.