There’s a need in me to synthesize what I’ve seen tonight, August 6, 2015: the Republican party had a debate among ten of their seventeen primary candidates, followed immediately by Jon Stewart hosting his last episode of The Daily Show.
It was notable that Stewart did not engage in much comedy about the debate itself. Obviously the show is taped earlier than the debate, so there was an ongoing gag about that. The debate was ripe for ridicule, though, and the viewing audience was, for the first time, made to realize that this man (and his writing staff and correspondents) wasn’t going to be there each night to make sense of it all.
Pete Ludovice, a professor at Georgia Tech and comedian, and Charlie Bennett, a Georgia Tech librarian, had a conversation on their podcast Consilienceabout the sensitivity landscape of comedy. I enjoyed Charlie’s excellent questions to Pete as well as Pete sharing his personal experience and assessment of the evolution of comedy throughout the years. It might seem strange to say, but I also very much appreciated the reservation both of them had, as is usual for the podcast. Rare is it that a discussion of political correctness and comedy goes without lambasting young people for their feels or calling them buzzkills!
Trevor Noah was recently announced to be taking Jon Stewart’s place as the head of The Daily Show towards the end of this year. I haven’t been a regular viewer of the show for some time, though it and The Colbert Report hold a special place in my heart from high school and college.
The news was met with excitement that finally someone other than a white straight cis man was going to head a major late night show, even if it’s in a slightly different, “comedy newsy” category. I went to watch a few of Noah’s segments from the past few months he’s been on the show.
“Spot the Africa” is fantastic, juxtaposing Americans’ expectations of what Africa is with the reality that it’s more similar to the US than we perceive. The impact is so strong that the audience clearly gets a little uncomfortable.
“Boko Haram in Nigeria” is similarly powerful because it highlights a huge oversight in our public consciousness on current events in Africa and their similarity to the Middle East, pointing to our priorities and misperceptions.
Within a day of the announcement, though, scrutiny of his past behavior has become the more dominant headline…