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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial

“It’s true. I mean, you’ve got stoned slackers watchin’ your dopey show every night, OK.” So said Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly to Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, during an interview in 2004. Now, Fox has decided to attempt to ape the success of the Daily Show with their own political commentary/comedy program entitled, “This Just In”, which should premiere around the time this last Mass Media issue of the semester leaves the stands. The creator of Fox’s knock-off of the wildly popular Comedy Central show, Joel Surnow, has also executively produced such ass-kickingly kickass programs as Fox’s “24”. He has expressly referred to his new brainchild as, “the Daily Show for conservatives.”

It is doomed to failure, of course. For one thing, conservatives are not funny enough. There are no famous conservative comedians. “What about Rush Limbaugh?” one asks. Rush’s humor needs a victim, though, and that isn’t really humor. It’s something else-scorn, maybe, masking itself as humor. Name any conservative commentator you like, and the formula is the same. There is always a target of the jokes and jibes, and it is always liberals. One who has held up as an example of a conservative comedian is Jeff Foxworthy, who has referred to giving birth as “letting a greased St. Bernard in through the cat door.” He has his moments, granted. Larry the Cable Guy, too, is pretty freaking awesome. But neither of them mess much with politics, and can’t really be called conservative comedians. Larry the Cable Guy, especially, is universal. Git ‘r’ Done! Heh, heh.

But it’s not because conservatives are incapable of humor (they are) that this will bomb. It’s because any show as successful as the Daily Show is got so by filling a niche that has not yet been met. Fox, upon seeing this niche filled, are flailing about trying to land in another niche. Popular culture history is littered with media that arose in imitation of successes: walk into the Martial Arts section of any video store and count the numbers of movies starring Bruce Li, or Bruce Le, or Bruce Lee, Jr. There may be an audience for a form of the Daily Show aimed at conservatives. It will undoubtedly make jokes about liberals the same way Stewart makes jokes about Bush.

The jokes have been made, is the thing. The “gee, don’t liberals suck?” message has its channels, its audience, anyone who buys into it will buy into “This Just In”, which will bomb for the same reason the liberal claptrap radio station, Air America bombed: it was an imitation. Air America attempted to imitate Rush Limbaugh, and failed to create the market for a left-wing Rush Limbaugh Show phenomenon. The Fox show will bomb for the same reason, though its fans will likely blame this failure on liberals.

They will miss the point that people watch the Daily Show because Jon Stewart is a funny and talented individual who does not talk down to his audience, not because he is someone in a suit making fun of conservatives. The impression that Fox seems to working under is that people who watch the Daily Show get their news and information primarily from it, and are not merely being entertained by it. Some people may very well use a cable television comedy program as their primary source for their information on current events, but the same criticism could be made of Fox viewers. At any rate, if Stewart is making a joke about the Dalai Lama or Halliburton, it can be assumed that most intelligent people watching the show are informed about both outside of the Daily Show.

Stewart, we remember, was fond of making Clinton jokes as a standup during that administration (and remains so this day). The Daily Show then featured Craig Kilborn under what was intended to be much the same format; sarcastic, news-related comedy. Kilborn couldn’t cut it, so Stewart came along and ripped it up. It wasn’t the format that was successful, it was Stewart’s use of the format, and Fox won’t be able to replicate that.

That Stewart is an equal-opportunity skewerer is another thing Fox doesn’t understand. Fox News programming executives live immersed in their own little world of right-wing spin. Anything that attacks the President is Liberal, and anything Liberal is Evil. It’s a formula that’s served them well for a while, but perhaps it’s run its course? Is this show, dare we say it, an attempt to stay this course?

It’s doubtful that Fox has their own Jon Stewart up their sleeve.

Dennis Miller is a pseudo who requires a cranio-rectal extraction, pronto. Who’s next…Ann Coulter, maybe? How about G. Gordon Liddy, he’ a funny, funny guy.

Yes, sir: funny, funny, funny. Fox’s new offering, “This Just In”, out in January, will be funny, but not the way Fox intends.