Category: Late Night

Stewart 1, Carlson 0, The Public -243

Filed Under Late Night

I’m sure you’ve already heard about the huzzahs for Jon Stewart’s confrontational appearance on “Crossfire” (transcript, video). People were a little surprised to see a serious Stewart challenging the premise of Crossfire and particularly Tucker Carlson (whom Stewart attempts to even avoid facing, if you watch the video). But I think Stewart is sick of the idea that his show, a comedy show, is seen by many as the only oasis from spin.

Tucker Carlson attempted to make Stewart address his softball questions to John Kerry, but Stewart’s job isn’t to interrogate Presidental candidates. He’s a comedian and, sure, often a satirist, but the viewing public shouldn’t need him to do the job of the actual press. The media claims that they aim for objectivity but it’s obviously both parties have learned ways to work around that. The media has yet to adapt to these new realities. And that’s what Jon Stewart’s been screaming about for months.

As the media has been taking “The Daily Show” more seriously, it’s been missing the message of the show. It’s not that this is how people get their news. It where people gets the perspective that news used to provide. Satire only starts becoming a viable option for information when the media fails in its job. Demanding Jon Stewart ask harder questions of our elected officials shows how far our media has slipped. He’s not a newsman. He’s a comedian. Once the press stops trying to be entertainment, reporters and pundits won’t have to worry about entertainers doing their jobs better.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 09:37 PM | Comments (2)

Better “Late” Than Never

Filed Under Late Night

So I’m busy doing a revamp on the blog, and bam! big comedy news. Oh well, no rest for the wicked. And I don’t get to have any fun either.

Leno’s passing along the “Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien in the year 2009. Already many are expressing theories involving Conan backstabbing Leno and strong-arming NBC management that should give Bill Carter plenty of material if he wants to write “Late Shift 2: Electric Boogaloo.” I don’t really have an opinion on such behind-the-scenes machinations, other than I’m inclined the think the best of both parties because if you look back at how NBC’s bungling destroyed personal friendships before, somebody had to give.

More interesting to me is how will Conan adjust his style in 2009. Some speculate lots of dumbing down and toothless comedy, citing how Leno eagerly embraced a base audience. I’m sure some modifications will occur… I just don’t think the Masturbating Bear will play at 11:30. But the Conan character Triumph has certainly broken into primetime, appearing on such middle-America fare as Last Comic Standing on Tuesday. Smart and irreverent comedy can play at 11:30.  Just because the time slot appeared to swallow Leno whole doesn’t mean it’ll consume Conan.

Conan would probably do well to look at Carson, who appealed to the whole country while maintaining an edge of cool that only abandoned him after Arsenio Hall (remember him?) came on the scene. I’m not sure where the two intersect, Carson’s confidence and laid back persona couldn’t seem more opposite Conan’s nerdy energy. But Carson’s level of cool, like the rat pack, doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. Performers and audience are too self-conscious now to allow it, hence irony.

The boundaries of what you can and can’t say, even on the Tonight Show, have certainly broken down. And, FCC fines aside, I don’t see America stuffing that cat back in the box. Who knows what you can say on TV five years from now? Who knows if networks will still be relevant as cable gains more prominence? Maybe late night action will be concentrated on “Adult Swim” and “Daily Show” by then. Whatever TV comedy turns into, Conan’s five years of planning time might just be a blessing. He could very well need it.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:26 AM | Comments (3)

Comedian Secrets Revealed!

Filed Under Late Night

One of the charms of Da Ali G Show is wondering how the hell they tricked luminaries like Boutros Boutros-Ghali into agreeing to an interview in the first place. If you like to treat your comedians like magicians, you probably shouldn’t read the piece Slate published detailing exactly that. Included in the report is a sample letter sent to one of the victims and links to two of the fake websites they use to make it all look legit. The article concludes with the observation that Ali G, the character, probably won’t be getting away with this for much longer. The producer see a lot more longevity in fashion-obsessed Bruno and Kazakhstani journalist Borat, which is no surprise, considering the targets of both are “real” people, who lack the encumbrances of handlers and press agents.

In some ways I hope the producers of Ali G would spend an episode detailing their machinations themselves. But, one of the best things about the Ali G show is that it doesn’t break that Ali G, Borat or Bruno are characters. Each character lives in its own reality… for Borat the graphics are done in Kazakhstanian and then English is overlayed on top of them. So they’re real not only to their targets, but also for the viewers. It’s a tone that I think is infinitely stronger for humor, but not so good once everyone gets in on the joke.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

Not Only is it Liberal Media, so’s its Audience

Filed Under Late Night

In the following transcript of an interview with Jon Stewart to promote America (the Book), Bill O’Reilly describes The Daily Show‘s audiences as stoned slackers, most of whom are intoxicated while watching. And worst of all, they’re voters! Check it.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)

Emmys: Not So Hideous After All.

Filed Under Awards, Late Night, Sitcom

I normally can’t stand award shows… self-congratulatory excess is one of Hollywood’s worst traits, but awards for comedy writing went exactly where they should (and needed) to go. I’m hoping Arrested Development‘s Best Comedy Emmy annoints it as the next Seinfeld, with the subsequent ratings explosion to follow. And in some ways, I wonder if that’s exactly what the voters were thinking too. The show definitely deserves it, but as far as I can see, that doesn’t factor too much in voters’ decisions. Everyone imagined that Sex and the City would get it, as congratulations for such a great run (no matter how much limping to the finish line they did). But with so much concentration on how network TV comedy is over, giving an award to a comedy that was over or nearly over (in the case of Raymond) would have been acknowledging the genre’s best days were behind it. Even if this was a factor, Arrested was the best sitcom on TV last year. Period.

As for the best part of the show, the parody of the Swift Boat Veteran Ad written by the Daily Show writers was amazing. If you missed it, Wonkette has a transcript of it here. Congrats to the Daily Show and its writers (particularly buds Jason Ross and Rob Kutner) on their second Emmy. Also highly-deserved.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

Armed with a +4 Vorpal Smirk

Filed Under Late Night

Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert reinforces the stereotype of comedians as popular, bullying jocks in high school… in an alternate universe! Gamespy reminisces about 30 years of Dungeons and Dragons and guess who’s a fan! (Confession: so were we.)

Posted by Todd Jackson at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

Don’t Blame the Messenger. Blame the Guy Who Makes Fun of the Messenger

Filed Under Late Night

A University of Michigan study has linked voter apathy to late night TV. The report links lack of voting with viewership of Letterman, Leno, etc. There’s also the corollary that watching programs like Oprah makes young adults more politically optimistic as well as more likely to vote.

I have to say I can see why this would be true. Seeing things like a crowd of country music fans willingly join in a chorus of the anti-Semitic “Throw the Jew Down the Well” on Da Ali G Show doesn’t make me excited for America’s future. But I don’t think watching Oprah would make me any more excited about the political process. I had a pessimistic viewpoint on politics beforehand and don’t really believe in easy, weepy solutions. With satire at least I know what’s wrong with the country. And I can choose my candidates accordingly.

One of the things I wonder is what results you would get if you fragmented the survey out further, dividing it between shows like Letterman and Leno and shows like The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. I imagine that the former set, where comedy that addresses politics rarely dives into specifics of policies, gives the impression “they’re all crooks!” Whereas comedic shows like The Daily Show and others, which focus a bit more on politics, actually motivate voting.

Syracuse professor of being quoted in magazines and newspapers about TV Robert Thompson described comedy in a recent article as the “fifth estate.” I definitely see these shows in that light, where they keep our journalists and politicians honest. If some voters get disillusioned… well, maybe if we could have kept our estates to four in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t need satire as much as we do.

Posted by Todd Jackson at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)
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