Interesting read by someone called Steve Almond at the Baffler. Interesting in that it’s about lefty comedy darlings Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and it’s not fawning with enthusiasm, as we typically see in stories about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Our lazy embrace of Stewart and Colbert is a testament to our own impoverished comic standards. We have come to accept coy mockery as genuine subversion and snarky mimesis as originality. It would be more accurate to describe our golden age of political comedy as the peak output of a lucrative corporate plantation whose chief export is a cheap and powerful opiate for progressive angst and rage.
And Almond rightly gives praise to South Park for going places Stewart and Colbert refuse to go (emphasis mine):
South Park indulges in a good deal of bathroom humor—perhaps inevitably, given that its protagonists are ten-year-olds. But the show is far more radical than its polished stablemates for the simple reason that it is willing to confront its viewers. [Trey] Parker and [Matt] Stone savage both the defensive bigotry of conservatives and the self-righteous entitlement of the left. They accomplish this not by riffing on the corruption of our media and political cultures, but by creating original dramas that expose the lazy assumptions and shallow gratifications of the viewing audience.
The article also poses an interesting theory about the genesis of right-wing talk radio and makes some other astute observations here:
…it might be instructive to contemplate the rise of right-wing radio, an industry borne of commuter rage, which now dominates not just the Republican Party, but our national discourse. Stewart would have us believe that selfish jerks never get hired as analysts. But as his sidekick Colbert clearly demonstrates, that’s exactly who gets hired at the networks—folks who can excite our primal states of negative feeling: wrath, envy, fear. In Stewart’s daffy formulation, pundits and politicians are the ones who prey on an otherwise noble citizenry. But it’s us citizens who watch those pundits and elect those politicians. We’ve chosen to degrade our discourse. Stewart and Colbert make their nut by catering to those citizens who choose to laugh at the results rather than work to change them.
For bonus points, please check out Rachel Maddow‘s clueless, hyper-partisan comment in the piece as well. (How can a Rhodes Scholar be so dumb?)