Monday, August 28
That's the question Jon Stewart posted Friday night (I think it was Friday night) and it was one of those jokes that he delivered just unable to contain himself. He was so proud! Of course it's not true that social criticism doesn't happen other places, but that's where the audience goes. I'll be the first to say that if it weren't for Jon Stewart (and Oprah Winfrey), the American public would be duped more completely than they are today. These entertainers did something important, but they also changed our jobs, to some extent. So today, I'm looking at a.secret and thinking, "Quick! Say something funny that does something important!" But I think I'll save my energy because I have to teach today and there, the expectations are the same: Be funny and be entertaining, otherwise, my students won't be so receptive when I disassemble their worlds.

7 comments:

fraud, in denim said...

I need to think more about this post before I respond thoughtfully, but I wanted to add Chris Rock to your list of popular culture icons who help make the world a more socially aware place. Sure, a lot of people watched Bigger and Blacker for the profanity or vulgarity, but anyone really listening got some great social commentary as well.]

I do miss my old party-central school where any kind of humor went over well. Now I feel like I have to keep it clean and it's tough when I learned to teach with humor as a crutch.

Navy Blue Blob said...

It likely wasn't Friday since I don't think his show is on on Friday. (I figure they figure his main audience goes out on Friday. I figure they sometimes figure wrong.)

I don't think of Oprah as particularly funny, but I also don't have that much experience with her. That said, I agree that she is *very* important in getting information out to the public.

And Jon Stewart, absolutely certainly! That said, my impression is that you have to be fairly savvy to get some of those jokes. So it's not for everyone necessarily, which is a bummer. (Oprah is better that way, in my opinion, in reaching lots of people. But the gender of her audience is probably less varied.)

Humor is important in communicating lots of messages to people. (Life is Beautiful, anyone?) Should anything be wrong with that? I mean, sure, some topics perhaps should be beyond humor (Life is Beautiful, anyone?), on the other hand, can be extremely helpful in certain situations that are otherwise hard to endure (I won't say it one more time).

Well, this comment is perhaps going further than you had intended.. I guess I'm into free association this early in the academic year.

Sulphur Siren said...

As a total Jon Stewart devotee (love both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report), I suppose I am not objective. Humor is an absolute "moral imperative" to quote Real Genius.

That said, I think Jon is talking only about mainstream media. Certainly it is impossible to say there is a lack of social criticism out there. It is all over the places I inhabit. One could argue that the mainstream media has never been particularly adept at criticizing phenomena for which they are partly responsible. I would, however, say they are good and a subtle and insidious forms of social criticism. Prime examples: 1) Continuing espousal of a dangerous and exclusionary definition of patriotism. 2) Routine indictment the socioeconomic independence of women.

With that sort of assault, humor is merely an embolitic prophylactic.

Just my three cents.

kodachrome said...

Hi Fraud, Interesting, you bring up the reverse process, that social criticism infects comedy. Although I'd argue that there is even a politics of bathroom jokes, it is interesting to ponder whether the two things might be related.

Navy, good point about Friday! Tivo keeps me confused about these things. Right. Oprah's not funny, but critical in a stealth kind of way. I assume you're right that Stewart gets a better gender mix, but I'll bet he tilts the scales pretty heavily toward men--You know the Democrats keep loosing because they are a bunch of p-- um, girls. Maybe women like to hear that and think it's funny, but I kinna doubt it.

Suphur Siren, it's not that I disagree with you. Obviously I watch, and even record the Daily Show. I also think humor is vitally important for me, personally and politically, but I'd hate to see Stewart get confused about the reason he can be more critical than his journalistic counterparts. (Comedy is the lure for him.)

Yes, Life is Beautiful, nbb. I couldn't live in a world without humor, but I also think that if we had to do it all through humor, we'd be screwed. I'm especially remembering Stewart's first show after 9-11. It was a disaster, in itself. We had been drowning in the "real" news for I-forget-how-long while he tried to recover and then took some more time off out of respect. When he finally came back, he had nothing, and there was so much to say! I am sympathetic to his personal dilemma, I'm sure it was just impossible to be funny, but it was not impossible to be critical! I could have tossed the tv out the window that night.

Dandelion said...

Jon Stewart has a pretty female-heavy fan base based on the oh-so-significant sample of my acquaintance.

Do you think comedy is the only reason he can be more critical than the mainstream media? I agree that it's easier to criticize when you're outside the system, but I don't think that means it's not possible for journalists to be just as critical. I rewatched his infamous appearance on Crossfire recently and it was still just as frustrating to see the hosts try to laugh off his pleas for them to ask some harder questions occasionally.

kodachrome said...

Ooooh. I'm bad, now. I should really be leaving, but I've been meaning to say,"Hello" Dandelion. Plus, I absolutely *must* explain myself. I don't think it's the humor so much as it is the alternative "draw" (comedy) that attracts his audience. The so-called news has to pull some pretty stupid news-like and not-so-newslike stunts in their attempts to draw an audience, and *still* they're constrained to stay within the confines of an admitedly changing definintion of "news." All I'm saying is that this comedy premise gives him more freedom, and that's a good thing, so long as we're not confused about it.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Interesting point, Koda, glad you came back to procrastinate some more and add that last bit!

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