By Matt Welch
I've never been a fan of Tom Junod's overwriting, but there's no denying the man is capable of that rarest of magazine rarities: an original celebrity profile. That's what Junod has served up for Esquire, cold, on the front stoop of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Sample:
Now he's a real New Yorker, which means he doesn't take any bulls**t and at the same time bulls**t doesn't bother him, depending on the circumstance. But when Congress started jacking those 9/11 first responders around, stalling on the bill that promised them benefits: That bothered him. So he found his opportunity and took his shot, started telling preposterous old biddies like Mitch McConnell to *just pass the f***ing thing*. And they passed it, last December. And you know what he got in return, from all the grateful firemen in New York? A birthday party for one of his kids in the firehouse in his neighborhood in New York, with a birthday cake in the shape of a fire truck. And you know what else he got? A story in The New York Times that compared him to Edward R. Murrow...
See? It never takes long, when you play the Jon Stewart Game. But hey, it's not his fault. He saw the Edward R. Murrow thing in the Times, was smart enough to say "What the...?" He made sure to remind us that he's a comedian, for crying out loud. He makes funny faces and fart jokes. But here's the thing: When he protests that he's a comedian, he's not escaping from the collective fantasy. He's feeding it. The collective fantasy, you see, is not just about Jon Stewart, it's about America, especially liberal America, and its need for redeemers to rise out of its ranks. Jon Stewart's just a comedian the way gunslingers in old westerns are really peaceable sodbusters who hate all that bloodshed and all that killin' but finally have to strap on them six-guns and march on into town. Heck, he'd go back to telling jokes if he could, but he can't, not with hired guns like Tucker Carlson and Jim Cramer around... [...]
Stewart isn't just being a bully here. He is being disingenuous, and he knows it. Worse, he's tapping into the collective fantasy without knowing it. He's the gunslinger saying he's going back to the farm while at the same time putting notches in his belt. More precisely, he's the presumptive Edward R. Murrow saying that he'll go back to comedy once he cleans up journalism. But he can't go back. He can't go back to the pleasures of fart jokes and funny faces — the pleasures of comedy — because he's experienced the higher pleasure of preaching to weirdly defenseless stiffs like Jim Cramer. He's saying once again that he's outgrown comedy and is no longer a comedian. But he's not saying what he actually is, because then he'd be judged. And Jon Stewart, to a degree unique in the culture, exists outside the realm of judgment.
Other good stuff in there about the painful-to-watch problems of liberal political comedy in the age of Obama. Link via Instapundit.