Jon Stewart is often very feeble

Posted in Daily Show, Jon Stewart, journalism, Media, Yemen by Deputy city editor on January 11, 2010

Mullen can’t beat the Taliban but Stewart was a pushover

Jon Stewart’s team has done a lot to puncture the media bubble but bring in a guest and usually he turns to mush. Why is he so often timid and useless in his interviews? There is something missing.

His performance grovelling before chairman of the joint chiefs Mike Mullen was only a recent example of his tendency to slaver at important guests and refuse to confront them with really hard questions.

Stewart was completely unconvincing with Mullen from the start of this ill-fated segment. In the first 10 seconds he  swallowed entire Mullen’s brush-off of the American role in Yemen and threw away the story of the week in America’s endless war.  The interview proceeded to degenerate into a love-fest for the fighting men and women of America – and leave everything else out of it. This could have been Fox.

Stewart may make jokes about Yemen but maybe he could find in himself a higher comedic purpose.  Stewart is quick to pillory Fox and its bubble head discourse. This has been his greatest achievement.  Fox is ridiculous and dangerous. And the Pentagon is not?

Stewart’s cringing deference to powerful people from Washington and Hollywood is the worst part of his show. Sometimes, he gets the better of his guests. But usually he doesn’t even try.

It is no defense for Stewart to answer that this is ‘just’ comedy. This is his usual cop-out. I remember Stewart going on CNN to tell them they were broadcasting crap. Pots, kettles and the colour black come to mind. Stewart can read a script but can he hold a brief?

Sadly, Stewart has plenty of previous. He has recently been indecently chummy with Janet Napolitano, the secretary in charge of America’s homeland security theatre. The less said about the frequent appearances on Stewart’s podium of  John McCain and Bill Kristol the better.

Letting guests push their books, movies and spin is fine – but only if Stewart pushes back. Otherwise he’s hardly different from all the other dripping wets on the telly. Stewart has done a reasonable job going after the media side of the media-industrial-military complex but he needs to grow some balls.  Stewart has to prove he is at least as good as his writers and more than a mere performer.

Meanwhile, demonstrating further contempt for his UK audience, it is no longer possible to watch The Daily Show online in the UK, so Britons will at least be spared the embarrassment of reviewing Stewart’s feeble performance. Or Mullen’s bizarre attention to his crotch as he walked onto the set.

Many days later. Is this fair? I am reminded of JS evisceration of CNBC’s manic-depressive Cramer. But Cramer wanted to debase himself and regretted it only later. I still Jonathan Stewart needs discipline and must establish himself as someone reliable in an interview and not just a heap of mush.


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