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Am I The Only One?

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Bottom Line: Politics Ain't Funny

You know, I've been thinking about Jon Stewart's series-killing appearance on Crossfire, and Robert Novak's walkoff on Inside Politics, two events that seem to share a common thread. And no, the thread isn't CNN.

It's that no matter how much you laugh, politics just ain't lighthearted stuff. Witness the demise of Politically Incorrect host Bill Maher: when you step on political toes with irreverance in the name of comedy, eventually you will find a majority of the nation staring at you with a slight frown and a sore foot.

Political comedians would love for you to believe that they are above the fray, uninvolved in the political discourse, that everything rolls off their back. But the truth is that the political landscape makes them angry. Every one of them. And the anger piles up until they, like Mr. Maher, say something... stupid.*

And then it isn't funny anymore.

Witness Jon Stewart, the hero of the cynics a couple years ago. As a guest on the award-winning political free-for-all Crossfire, he ambushed hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson with a serious-as-a-heart-attack dissection of the show. Many political cynics hailed the performance as "honest" and credited Stewart for Crossfire's ensuing cancellation, but I think time will show that it was the end of Stewart has well. For he showed that for all his lighthearted words, politics weighs on him. It makes him angry.

And he wasn't funny. Not even a little.

In fact, the video clip still makes me cringe. For a small minority that loves this kind of awkward public skewering, the rest of us would just rather that the TV folks like Stewart and CNN work these things out off camera.

As for Robert Novak, I suspect that his short temper on live TV had a lot to do with the pressures of the CIA / Valerie Plame scandal, but was probably due in no small part to 23 years of political arguments on TV.

* See 2nd Quote concerning cruise missiles -- the quote that ended his career on Politically Incorrect. I could discuss for quite some detail how that statement was stupid and nonsensical in every way, but that's another entry...

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