Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert: Mock the Vote

Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY JAKE CHESSUM

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys regularly make a mockery of the 24-hour news networks. Do you see anything good about the format?
JON STEWART: It's Muzak now. You ever walk into a clothing store in New York City and they're not playing music? And you go, ''What's going on here? Did a virus hit? This doesn't seem right.'' Twenty-four-hour news now is this weird companion to my life.
STEPHEN COLBERT: There's not more news now than there was when we were kids. There's the same amount from when it was just Cronkite. And the easiest way to fill it is to have someone's opinion on it. Then you have an opposite opinion, and then you have a mishmash of fact and opinion, and you leave it the least informed you can possibly be.
STEWART: We've got three financial networks on all day. The bottom falls out of the credit market, and they were all running around. On CNBC I saw a guy talking to eight people in [eight different onscreen] boxes, and they were all like, ''I don't know!'' It'd be like if Hurricane Ike hit, and you put on the Weather Channel, and they were yelling, ''I don't know what the f--- is going on! I'm getting wet and it's windy and I don't know why and it's making me sad! Maybe the president could come down and put up some sort of windscreen?'' By being on 24 hours a day, you begin to not be able to tell what's salient anymore.

For years, studies have come out saying that many young people get their news from late-night comedy, and Jon has always pooh-poohed this idea. But your shows are some of the only ones out there actually digging into archival video to prove when politicians are lying or contradicting themselves. You might not want the responsibility, but haven't you been given it by default?
COLBERT: I don't know if responsibility is the right word.
STEWART: It's more that we're an emotional show, not a political show. I don't know if you've ever spent time in s---hole bars in New Jersey with old people yelling at the TV, but that's what it is. It's a guy going, ''I never said that,'' and in the back of the room Elbow Eddie looks up from his Pall Malls and his Budweiser and goes, ''That's f---in' bulls---! I heard you say it two days ago!'' That's all that is. It's not a journalistic gotcha, it's just anger. It's easy when you're participating in the discussion to forget that people are watching and taping. Typically, politicians make you go back six months. But now...
COLBERT: I've got one for you. McCain said, ''The fundamentals of our economy are strong'' and ''Our economy is at risk.'' One was at 9 a.m., the other was 11 a.m. Our joke was ''You can be strong and at risk, too. Like, a muscleman who wouldn't wear a condom. What's the worst that could happen?''

NEXT PAGE: ''I just imagine Lincoln [campaigning today], and people throwing the gay stuff at him. 'And what about depression running in his family?'''

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