Skip to content

Jon Stewart and Colbert show why British topical TV satire is dead

February 16, 2009

It’s long been the fascination of the British quality press that Comedy Central’s twin pillars of satire, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its spin-off the Colbert Report manage to satirise American affairs with a clarity that British programmes don’t.
The last two weeks have shown, with pin point simplicity, just how far ahead of the game these two vehicles are.
On the day Obama shut Guantanamo Bay, Colbert released the Islamic terrorist Mohammad, imprisoned under his desk for four years, with words ‘Be free and don’t forget to waterboard yourself twice a day!” Of course, he wasn’t a terrorist and was Greek and had been delivering kebabs when arrested.
Stewart went several times better last week when he likened the Israeli election to two children’s party entertainers, Tzipi and Beni, battling for the house in a segment called ‘Jews or Lose’. But he topped everything when he debated former New Hampshire Republican senator John Sinunu over Obama’s recovery bill.
And here’s the thing, Stewart could address the debate from the position of intellectual equality while having a tonne of great gags; gags which simplified the issue for the viewers.
As John Oliver, the Daily Show’s lone Brit cast member said recently in an interview in The Word magazine, Stewart is committed to current affairs and making a difference with his comedy.
Stewart is in effect a hugely funny and combative comedic Paxman, able to battle with any public figure. The glory is that he even tries to.
Now, picture Mock the Week panelists getting into a debate on fiscal stimulus and not resorting to cheap attacks and feigned vitriol while picking up thousands doing corporate gigs on the side.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Boyle (25K a corporate, reportedly) and his brilliant attacks on Thatcher, but Brit satire is little more than Clarkson-style shock focussed abuse, as David Hepworth pointed out recently in Word.
Maybe Spitting Image ruined everything for us – point out physical or character abnormalities and failings and that does the job. It doesn’t.
From Bruce to Hicks, the States throws up comedians who challenge the status quo on its level and have a go. Instead, Brits either decide to fight with Clement Freud over a digression or crack a gag about Charles Kennedy and boozing for students on BBC2.
With the exception of the now politically insightful but unfunny documentary impressionist Rory Bremner and the righteous Side Show Marks, Steel and Thomas, who really takes on the establishment on it own turf in Britain?
The BBC tried its version of the Daily Show with the Marcus Brigstocke-fronted Late Edition and when not rehashing huge sections of the format he resorted to tired gags about Scousers, looking down on the working class and all but rimming Richard Dawkins on air.
Luckily Brigstocke’s doing his bit for the credit crunch by running a comedy festival for British skiing tourists in Verbiers. Right on, brother.
Meanwhile Stewart, to quote Hunter Thompson, is beating the opposition like dog with mange.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



Arts, Health and Wellbeing in the Community

Culture, Space, Technology: A Platial Journal

A 'Platial' perspective on daily life

Record Shop Shots

Looking for a vibe on a cheap fix

Boston College Subpoena News

The Belfast Project, Boston College and a Sealed Subpoena

Bella Caledonia

it's time to get above ourselves

Enda Guinan | Social

Sensible Social Media

David Hewson

Telling tales from around the world since 1995

two step

two of us in step, most of the time

Voice of the Belly

It's just a blog, not a tablet of stone

Little Sheffield Guitar Studio

Professional Guitar Tuition in the heart of Meersbrook, Sheffield

Tales from inside the age of digital news

An ever-changing journey through digital news media

W[r]ite Noise

Belfast-based arts and culture musings

Shakespeare Couldn't Email

And by and by clean starved for a look...

Irish Election Literature

... what you maybe meant to keep...

The Broken Elbow

A View of the World from New York and Belfast (Public PGP Key: 210D6F47)

%d bloggers like this: