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Taking Jon Stewart (Way Too) Seriously

Over at The Thread, Tobin Harshaw has an excellent round-up of responses to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, being held tomorrow. Stewart has been riding a wave of positive coverage recently, scoring Barack Obama as a guest this week on The Daily Show and attracting a presumed turnout of hundreds of thousands to the Rally. But he’s also attracted no small amount of criticism, both for the politics of the rally (“It doesn’t go far enough!” or “It goes way too far for a comedian!”) and for his quasi-softball interview with Obama.

Harshaw links to a piece that Ryan Kearney wrote that I think sums up the situation nicely:

As the criticism of Stewart’s rally proves, we are delusional: Writers often aren’t very thoughtful at all. We’re just bitter. We loved Stewart because he voiced that bitterness we felt — about politics, about television, and even about our own careers. Now that his narrative has diverged from our own, we fear he’ll become just another media figure — or worse, a politician — about whom we’re forced to write articles. Some of us, consequently, reject Stewart in the way we might reject a boyfriend or girlfriend who has left us for something bigger: He or she is already gone, but somehow we convince ourselves that the decision to leave the relationship was ours to make.

For some reason, I’m reminded of the words of Homer Simpson, who once intoned, “I can’t live the button-down life like you. I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles. Sure, I might offend a few of the bluenoses with my cocky stride and musky odors – oh, I’ll never be the darling of the so-called ‘City Fathers’ who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about ‘What’s to be done with this Homer Simpson?'”

In short: Get over yourselves, people. Stewart may be struggling to straddle his various roles as political commentator, comedian, show host, etc. But the man has achieved wild success and most importantly, he’s proven he can make us laugh the overwhelmingly vast majority of the time in spite of horrifying developments in our political landscape. Any shortcomings in our public/political discourse are surely more the result of an ossified, complacent punditry and a journalistic establishment beholden to corporate interests and sensationalism, rather than a talented funnyman who’s trying to take his comedy to new places (literally). Don’t shoot the court jester, even if he tries to get serious every now and then.