Harry Shearer is a man of many talents — funny voices (The Simpsons), funny bass-playing (This is Spinal Tap; A Mighty Wind), and, lately, funny websites. But all is not goofy and light in Shearer-land. Take the dead-serious, tantalizingly brief blog post he put up yesterday about the health of The Daily Show. “I think if you’re going to be making fun of politicians, you don’t hang out with them,” he writes, citing a Comedy Central suit’s remark that Beltway heavies feel “comfortable” talking to Jon Stewart on air. “If satire is comforting the comfortable, what’s it doing to the afflicted?”
Good question. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been a faithful Daily Show viewer since the Kilborn years, and I still tune in just about every night. But there was a time when I considered Stewart a hero for the way he laced his laffs with dead-on policy jabs, the way he fearlessly spoke truth to power. And that time seems longer ago every night. Stewart does seem awfully chummy with those big-name guests these days; it’s as if he’s ceded his hell-raising powers to Stephen Colbert. When’s the last time you saw Stewart nail a politician with a true Gotcha! moment?
He gets a few good lines in every once in a while, of course, and I’ll never give up entirely on the old Stewart. Still, have I already judged him too soon? Should Shearer and I keep our mouths shut until we’re the ones being expected to produce 30 minutes of comedic and political gold four nights a week? You tell me.