A News World Without Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart, the long-time star of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, shocked his audience yesterday by announcing that he would be leaving the show this year.  In a sign of just how important Stewart and The Daily Show are to modern America, his impending departure from what is, at bottom, a consistently funny comedy show was headline news at such diverse websites as the BBC and CNN Money.

Stewart has sat at the anchor desk of The Daily Show since 1999 — an extraordinarily long tenure in the modern world.  For many young adults, he’s been an immutable part of the social landscape for as long as they can remember.  With Stewart as the motivating force, The Daily Show has launched the careers of other comedy stars, like Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver, but more importantly it has become an essential cultural and political touchstone for a huge swath of the American population.  It is amazing, but true, that a large percentage of young Americans routinely get their exposure to news from The Daily Show and identify Stewart as more trusted to provide accurate information than networks like MSNBC.

Commentators may moan that such survey results are a sign of America’s illiteracy — and the growing irrelevance of broadcast and print journalism — but the reality is that people just get their news in different ways now.  Stewart and The Daily Show became trusted  because they mixed the humor with a healthy dollop of news footage, factoids, and actual interviews of Presidents, political and cultural figures, and world leaders.  And, although The Daily Show unquestionably came from a general liberal perspective, Stewart and his crew weren’t afraid to skewer racial politics, the disastrous roll-out of the healthcare.gov website, and other causes and developments on the left end of the political spectrum.

With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman, where will younger Americans turn to get their tolerable daily exposure to the world’s events?  There’s no guarantee that the new host will capture their confidence, and the risk is that they won’t turn to other sources for such information at all.  That should be a significant concern for those who have used The Daily Show to reach the Millennials.  If those Millennials (and members of the next generation, which hasn’t yet acquired a catchy title) who have some interest in politics and news aren’t watching The Daily Show, how do you engage them?  Jon Stewart’s replacement will have awfully big shoes to fill.

Advertisements

Not Funny

Today Stephen Colbert testified, in character, before a congressional subcommittee on immigration.  He said things like “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican” and the answer to needing illegal immigrants to pick our fruits and vegetables is to stop eating fruits and vegetables.

I’m sure Colbert thought it was a great opportunity to enhance his “brand.”  He got to take his act to Capitol Hill and get some free publicity “testifying” before an honest-to-God congressional panel.  I’m sure the Democratic Representative who is the chair of the subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren, thought it was a great way to get her subcommittee some air time.  Others, however, didn’t think it was very funny.

I fall into the latter camp.  What is the point of having a comedian testify, in character, about a serious issue like immigration?  I think it just makes Congress and congressional processes seem like even more of a joke, and it certainly suggests that Congress thinks that immigration isn’t worth much serious attention.  In an era when public respect for Congress is scraping the bottom of the barrel, why would Representative Lofgren think such a stunt was a good idea?

Domino’s New Pizza

Domino’s pizza has long had a reputation as the “poor man’s pizza.” That’s saying a lot considering how low quality all pizza delivery chains are.

I’ve always wondered why the big chains have to put out such lousy products. I can tolerate some of them – Papa John’s and Donato’s – but they still don’t compare to most local pizza joints. You would think the companies could spend a few million to develop a recipe that is easy to make in mass quantities at competitive prices, and as tasty as the pizza pies you get at those little places with bells on the door and tacky paintings of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the wall.

Domino’s recent ad campaign addresses this. The commercials show Domino’s executives humbly admitting that their pizza scored low on customer surveys (common complaints were that the crust tastes like cardboard and the sauce like ketchup), and promising to introduce a new, better recipe. Even while watching Stephen Colbert mock the commercial I couldn’t help but appreciate the company’s honesty. I thought, “finally!”, and decided to give the new pizza a chance. Which is exactly what the commercial was supposed to make me do. Yeah, I’m a sucker.

Mmmmmmmm…

I was disappointed. I never ate Domino’s much before, so I don’t remember what it tasted like, but if it was much worse than this it must have been really, really bad. I’m eating it now. The crust does, indeed, taste like cardboard except for the smidgen of “garlic” sprinkled on it, which they mention adding in the commercial. The sauce doesn’t taste like ketchup; it doesn’t taste like anything. It might as well be cheese on bread. And the cheese – not bad, but nothing special. It doesn’t have the gooiness that Mom and Pop pizza places seem to have. But maybe it lost that in the 50-55 minutes it spent making its way to my apartment (it was supposed to take 30-40 minutes).

One good thing I can say about Domino’s is that it has an excellent website. I’ve been ordering my pizzas online for a while, and Domino’s website makes it simpler than any other I’ve seen. The best part is that, after you place your order, you get to see what stage of preparation your pizza is in. “Christopher began preparing the ingredients for your pizza at 7:40 PM.” “Christopher placed your pizza in the oven at 7:45 PM.” “Daniel set out to deliver your pizza at 7:55 PM.”

I would have enjoyed this feature more if the pizza had tasted good or been delivered on time, though.