Everyone was talking about the results of latest US elections and one thought led to another. I wondered where all the fans of the The Daily Show were. Only for few seconds. Jon Stewart preaches to a choir and it is a smaller choir than Fox News‘.
A few days later I came across Jonathan Coe‘s essay Sinking Giggling into the Sea which, in the guise of a book review, looks at British satire. It joined a few of the dots of my thoughts.
He quotes the introduction to a collection of scripts to explain the British satire boom of the early sixties:
“Conceivably the demand arose because after ten years of stable Conservative government, with no prospect in 1961 of its ever ending, the middle classes felt some vague guilt accumulating for the discrepancy between their prosperous security and the continuing misery of those who persisted in failing to conform, by being black, or queer, or mad, or old.” — Michael Frayn, Beyond the Fringe
This explains nicely the persistent popularity of satire in France and it also works for The Daily Show’s.
Coe sums up the message of one skit with:
“Laughter is not just ineffectual as a form of protest, but that it actually replaces protest.”
I didn’t like the first conclusions I was drawing from this. Is The Daily Show‘s popularity a sign of the pacification of a malaise without any actions to cure it? Maybe. But the early sixties led to the protests of the late sixties and Jon Stewart does not limit himself to satire. He’s actively organizing, participating in, and promoting many events (e.g. the demonstration Rally to Restore Sanity).
Hmmm. What new paths for my thoughts to wander down will tomorrow’s news bring?