Home > Uncategorized > Blog 8: Stewart/Colbert Influence and Bias

Blog 8: Stewart/Colbert Influence and Bias

While The Daily Show and Colbert Report may not be considered political news in the traditional sense, both shows do indeed promote political action. It’s a subtle promotion, but it’s also brilliant. Since both shows cover current events within the political realm, the assumption both shows make is that their audiences are aware of these current events. If they weren’t, the jokes wouldn’t land the shows wouldn’t last. But since both Stewart and Colbert have become the representatives of how younger people gather their news, with high ratings and awards, it’s obvious that the people watching it get the jokes. And the only way for people to get the jokes (outside of the easy dick jokes both make) is to be cognizant of what’s happening in the news in the first place. Without context, the jokes wouldn’t make sense. So, in order for audiences to really enjoy The Daily Show or Colbert Report, it’s necessary to understand the goings on in terms of the news and politics for the jokes to actually punch. This is how both shows promote political action. They may not have an outright agenda, but they do encourage audiences to know what’s going on, if for nothing else, so they can laugh at the jokes.

In terms of bias, during the joint Stewart/Colbert coverage of the election results during Indecision 2008, both comedians let their guards down with the announcement of Obama’s victory in the election. This breaking of character, especially on Colbert’s part, shows the elation both had that Obama had won the presidency. Though this doesn’t necessitate Stewart or Colbert’s liberalness, it’s evident that the guy they wanted to win, who happens to be a liberal Democrat, won, and they were clearly happy about it. Like all other human beings, they have their bias. But because they’re comedians first and informers second, it’s more acceptable that their bias be shown on the air than, say, someone from CNN or the like.

Additionally, the Rally to Restore Sanity was organized in direct response to Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. While it may be unfair to claim that it was a rally by liberals for liberals, the crowd was overwhelming liberal and the jokes told were aimed toward liberal ideologies. However, more interesting than the fact that this rally was in response to an overwhelmingly conservative moment was the general confusion over what Stewart’s rally was supposed to be doing. And as others have linked in their blogs, it wasn’t until Stewart explained that the rally was a wake up call to the media to calm down that the point was made.

Though the job of Stewart and Colbert is to satirize the media (a job it typically does well), they do have their own biases. For instance, Colbert supports an increase in immigrant rights in terms of work visas (which is a relatively liberal ideology) and testified as such in Congress, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Stewart, too, admits a liberal point of view in terms of the show’s jokes. While this doesn’t mean The Daily Show won’t criticize the Obama administration, it’s much harder to find clips of Stewart criticizing Obama than it is of him criticizing the Bush Administration. And while this may be a function of his audiences’ interests, that his critique and comedy about the Republican Party and more conservative policies resonates more than his comedy about the Democratic Party and liberal policies shows his appeal as a liberal comedian.

In short, both shows are less political news shows and more critiques of the news, which is an important function in terms of providing information to the public. Both shows do have their biases based on which jokes the audience likes to hear and how both men, when not in character, react to happenings in the public forum. Finally, they promote political action because they have to in order for people to watch and enjoy the show. It’s hard to get the jokes if one doesn’t know what the joke is referencing, so though without an outright agenda and with a large amount of subtlety, both shows promote political participation.

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  1. April 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Good post.

    But when you say that these shows promote “political action” by requiring the audience to know what is going on, does this mean that you consider political awareness to be a form of “action?”

    Is gaining political knowledge a form of political participation?

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