가이드 #9: The problem with The Problem with Jon Stewart

There is a decent chance you haven’t caught, or even heard of, The Problem with Jon Stewart. Available on Apple TV+, the new(ish) comedy current affairs series from former Daily Show ringleader Stewart seems – at least from the lack of buzz on social media* – to be a victim of that peculiar streaming-age phenomenon where a deep-pocketed media company throws huge amounts of cash at talented people to make projects that then get buried amid a slew of similarly pricey projects made by similarly talented people. (See also: practically every TV series and film made in the last few years by Amazon.)

나는 가지다 been watching The Problem with Jon Stewart, mainly out of a nostalgic desire to relive the glory days of Stewart-era Daily Show, clips of which I devoured online as a student gawping across the pond at the stupidity and brutality of Bush-era America. Clever, goofy, droll, and possessing a Gen-Xer note of disdain for any and all authority, the Daily Show felt like an exciting update of what satire could be. It was also at times fabulously mean: just witness the utter ruthlessness of this segment reacting to Dick Cheney accidentally (and non-fatally) shooting his hunting partner in the face.

The Problem with Jon Stewart, I should warn anyone looking to time-travel back to those less-than-halcyon neocon-era days, is definitely not The Daily Show. 부여 된, it does feature an opening behind-the-desk monologue that – with its deadpan zingers and endless archive clips of Fox News hosts saying outrageous/inane things – feels close to what Stewart did every night on Comedy Central for 16 연령.

But from thereon in The Problem … diverges markedly from The Daily Show. Each episode sees Stewart seek to solve a societal, political or cultural problem, from hyper-specific issues such as the deadly effects of US military burn pits to broader catch-all topics like “the economy”. He does this, primarily, by carrying out interviews with politicians, scientists, industry insiders and other people tangentially connected to said problem.

These interviews are usually extremely long, often quite worthy and rarely terribly funny. 과, in fairness, I am not sure they’re intended to be terribly funny. Stewart seems less interested in making people laugh than getting them energised to change things. This was something already starting to become evident towards the end of his Daily Show run – the episode on burn pits is a sequel of sorts to his impressive work raising awareness and money for 9/11 first responders – but with The Problem … he has gone further. 요즈음, Stewart is more activist than satirist.

He is not alone. If you have watched any of the major US topical satire shows of the last five or so years – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the Trevor Noah-era Daily Show, even a few late-night hosts such as Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers – you will have seen something similar: the usual razor-sharp gags crafted by a well-armed militia of comedy writers, 예, but also big, emotive campaigns and calls to action.

Activist satire is hardly new (Mark Thomas has been doing it in the UK for decades), but this current strain found its voice in the cruelty and absurdity of the Trump era, where merely coming up with acid one-liners at travel bans, rampant corruption and attempted subversion of the democratic process didn’t really cut it: you had to be seen to be resisting in word and deed. Now that Trump has gone and there is borderline business as usual, those comics are having to work a little harder to get their audiences activated: ‘We Need to Save the Postal Service – Here is How We Do It!’ implored a recent segment of Full Frontal.

Is this “activist satire” a problem, per se? Certainly it’s better than some of the current alternatives: the scattershot and hopelessly tone-deaf Spitting Image or the low-stakes chumminess of political panel shows such as Have I Got News For You. “Are you doing some kind of exotic display for the court, or are you trying to change something?” Chris Morris, who knows a fair bit about these things, asked of satirists in a 채널 4 interview a few years back, and by that metric Stewart and co are succeeding.

아직도, there is a tricky line for shows such as The Problem with Jon Stewart to tiptoe. Satire is at its best when it lures you into some blinding realisation – about power, inequality, society – through laughter, rather than clubbing you over the head with a message. Tip too far towards the latter and, 잘, you’ve got a problem.

* As ever with streaming, actual tangible ratings for The Problem … are unobtainable. Apple has merely said that the series is the biggest unscripted programme among its still fairly small roster of original shows.

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