Thursday, April 2, 2015

Is it a good thing that Jon Stewart’s minions are multiplying?


News broke earlier this week that Trevor Noah will be taking over The Daily Show when Jon Stewart steps down later this year. Although Stewart is stepping out of the limelight, numerous Daily Show personalities are stepping into it: Samantha Bee is developing a show for TBS; Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show has taken over Stephen Colbert’s time slot; John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is a hit; and, of course, Colbert will resume his late-night career, this time as the real Stephen Colbert on CBS’ The Late Show.

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of Stewart, Colbert and their colleagues. As TC has noted in the past, the tradition of using humor, satire and irony to call leaders to account goes back to the Hebrew prophets, as well as Socrates and Plato. But I wonder: well over a decade into this new normal of comedy/news/satire/entertainment, are we getting too much of a good thing?

I’m cynical about politics and especially about cable news, but I have to ask: has Stewart’s irony and satire pushed us closer to desiring and seeking truth? Have they enhanced our public discourse, making us more self-aware about our own biases and more ready to listen to others? What’s the end goal of this mode of rhetoric?

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