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News and Comedy: That’s a Laugh

June 21, 2009

There was this same kind of disconnect in the visit to the New York Times by the Daily Show’s Jason Jones. Jones made bald-faced fun of the Times as a throwback to an ancient era, even as editor Bill Keller pompously compared the paper to the last rescue boat of journalism with hordes of desperate reporters “dying to clamber on board.” The Times continues to think of itself as journalism’s kingmaker while Jones lampoons it for that quaint habit of publishing day-old news and for having to admit its mistakes on the front page of its own paper. “Old man Keller,” as Jones called him, looked just that — creaky and out of touch, even while trying to appear game for allowing the Daily Show to pal around in the sanctity of the newsroom.
The well-reported news in Newsweek’s June 8 edition also appeared like so much filler with the appearance of Colbert as guest editor. Real editor Jon Meacham talked all kind of what I call Big Journalistic talk about why he asked Colbert to become the magazine’s first-ever guest editor, breaking with 76 years of history. Meacham says he was just so impressed with Colbert’s knowledge during a lunch at an Upper West Side Tuscan eatery that it seemed like the thing to do.
Worse is the statement Meacham makes in the magazine acknowledging how busy Colbert is and how amazing it was that Colbert could find the time to do the schtick er editorship. And, Colbert thanks his many designers, writers, and producers on the project — that is the fake editorship that took so much creative time and energy to make look like a real editorship — only funnier.
See, news people, it’s a lot of hard work and talent to be funny. It’s show business. It’s not real. Late-night comedy might use news for fodder and for fun, and it rightly should; I mean there’s definitely room in news for levity, the offbeat, and the absurd. But comedy — even sophisticated political satire — is an industry in itself.
We in the news business might be fans, but we’re not it. We’re news people, even though the news has gone Hollywood. Comedians look at us with awe and wonder, and then make fun of us. We look at them in awe and wonder and want to be them. We’re diminished by acting on that desire.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. paperhearts03 permalink
    August 5, 2009 6:08 am

    I really really like this. You did an amazing job dissecting this business of news vs comedy!


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