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Irony is served with Jon Stewart’s interview of Jim Cramer

Posted in Culture, Finance, Television by Alex L. on March 13, 2009

After a week-long television feud, yesterday Jim Cramer appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to explain why CNBC had failed in their mission to intelligently report financial news as the financial crisis was beginning to unravel. I admire Jim Cramer for going on the Daily Show (and several times on the Colbert Report) and his willingness to have an honest debate with commentators that challenge him.

Nevertheless, there was a tinge of irony in Cramer’s response to Stewart as the comedy show host was probing his guest to try to understand why Jim Cramer was so buffoonish and irrational about serious financial matters on his show. Jim Cramer responded by saying, “I’m a guy trying to do an entertainment show about business for people to watch, but it’s difficult to have a reporter say, ‘I just came back from an interview with Hank Paulson and he lied his darn full head off.’ It’s difficult; I think it challenges the boundaries.” Ironically, though, this is what Jon Stewart does every day on his show. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is primarily an entertainment show, but it also interweaves smart social criticism into its comedy. And Jon Stewart is famous for giving colleagues and guests (many of them powerful and high-profile) tough cross-examinations. He does this so well that his parody news show often delivers better journalism than the established media. Stewart said to Cramer in reply, “Yeah, I mean, I’m under the assumption – and maybe this is purely ridiculous – but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value. That you actually then go around and try to figure it out.” I commend (for what it’s worth) Jim Cramer for having the guts to confront Jon Stewart on his home turf, but perhaps the financial news commentator has a thing or two to learn from Jon Stewart about successfully marrying smarts and entertainment on television.

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3 Responses

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  1. unspy said, on March 17, 2009 at 7:06 pm

  2. Jesse said, on March 21, 2009 at 12:31 am

    “He does this so well that his parody news show often delivers better journalism than the established media.”

    You also mentioned how successfully Jon Stewart marries smarts and entertainment. I think it’s in many ways because of how smart he is that he can be so entertaining.

    He’s in a unique position with his show. He’s got the best of both worlds, being able to make biting criticisms of others in more professional media, etc., while claiming that he does not have the responsibility that they have, because his is an actual comedy show. He claims immunity to responsibility from what I’ve seen. That claim sits rather iffy with me – with his capacity for understanding the issues and sparring with his opponents, I think that the comedy show label is a bit of a false shield from criticism.

    (Good to see you blogging again!)

  3. historyjournalblog said, on April 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    You’re right, Jesse: Jon Stewart always (and often very artfully) falls back on his role as a comedian even though he commands a lot of respect as an intellectual. I think Jon’s right though: his show is inherently an act of entertainment. Nevertheless, a comedian has a certain responsibility to the public as well. Just like we expect journalists to report what is truthful and artists to portray what is truly beautiful (for the artist by the virtue of his art can make almost anything seem beautiful, whether by nature it is so or not), we should perhaps expect a comedian to make laughable what is by nature ridiculous.

    There is a beautiful scene in Plato’s Republic where Socrates lambasts a male citizen in his theoretical city for laughing at women who exercise with men in the gymnasium (the Republic is an egalitarian society contrasting sharply with chauvinistic Athens). Socrates says that what is good for the city – training capable guardians whether they be female or male – is not worthy-of-ridicule. Thus, in light of virtue and love of the common good, even laughter has its appropriate and inappropriate time and place. Perhaps, then, Jon Stewart does have a kind of responsibility to the public in that regard.


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