Aug 26 2011

Jon Stewart To Interview Dave Grohl and Krist Novaselic

Most of the time I am displeased with my satellite radio subscription. I can’t honestly say I use it much, the only channel I consistently enjoy is Backspin, but usually, just because I know every single song they play and it’s good for commuting, I listen to the 90’s alternative channel Lithium. And next month, that channel is actually doing something other than playing Soundgarden tracks over and over.

Jon Stewart will host “Town Hall With Nirvana,” kicking off a half week of Nevermind Radio in celebration of the landmark album’s 20th anniversary. Jon will interview the remaining members of the group Dave Grohl and Krist Novaselic, as well as the legendary producer Butch Vig. After that, it’s all Nirvana, all the time for an entire four days, playing hits, rarities, b-sides, etc. The interview airs September 24th at 8pm EST. Finally these guys give me a reason to keep my subscription.

Mar 31 2011

The Late Night Rundown – Jon Stewart

Back in the 70′s, there was only Johnny Carson.  But since the retirement of the undisputed King of Late Night in 1992, there has been a plethora of new shows pop up, each with the same basic formula, but unique in their own way. After reading Bill Carter’s The War For Late Night, I have become addicted to late-night television all over again.  So I am starting a new series of posts dedicated to the many hosts out there currently making us laugh after prime time, analyzing one at a time.

If one were to watch old Daily Shows from the 90’s, when it was Craig Kilborn at the helm, a completely different program would be found.  Where Kilborn, as he usually did, made the show more about the host than the topics discussed, Stewart transformed the Daily Show into an award-winning political/news satire program.  Kilborn’s show was novel and goofy; Stewart’s is smart, irreverent, and edgy.

In the twelve years Stewart has hosted, he has become a prominent figurehead in news, comedy, politics, and punditry, whether he likes it or not.  Many young people have claimed they “get their news” from the Daily Show, essentially a comedy program, and Jon Stewart is their anchor.  Some call him a hero; Fox News likes to call him a cog in the liberal media machine.  He and colleague Stephen Colbert even held an enormously successful rally at the Washington Mall.  The theme? Restoring sanity to America.

Many thought that with the exit of goofball President Bush, many topical comics, Stewart included, would have little to rant about.  But the Daily Show is as fresh as ever, lampooning colossal fuck-ups by politicians, verbal hypocrisies from the Tea Party, and general fear-mongering from the cable news outlets.  Even though we have a more articulate, poised President, there’s still plenty of material to be found, and Stewart dishes it out each night.  In addition, his team of “correspondents” is one of the best in the show’s history, featuring rising stars Wyatt Cenac, John Oliver, and Jason Jones.  Asif Mandvi and Samantha Bee throw some worthy punches as well.

But the star is undeniably Stewart – the material changes with the news, but Stewart always acts as the voice of reason, usually merely stating the obvious so bluntly it is utterly hilarious.  His interviewing is conversational and purposeful.  Jon is casual with Hollywood stars, attentive with insightful authors and professors, direct and in command with political and media figureheads.  He knows his audience, who aren’t like the rest of Comedy Central’s dreck tuning in for Daniel Tosh – they are here to laugh, yes, but also to learn.  Jon knows when to tickle the funny bone and when to bring the viewer in closer for an honest, earnest look.

If there’s any doubt Stewart’s influence is apparent, we need only look to last December, where he devoted an entire program to the 9/11 First Responders Act (a bill that would give financial aid to firefighters and policemen suffering from medical issues related to the attack on the World Trade Center), a bill that Congress and the media were ignoring, and one Jon Stewart felt very passionately about.  He interviewed a group of NYC firefighters and police officers, first responders to 9/11, all of whom were suffering from illness because of their heroic deeds, and who couldn’t afford their medical bills.  The episode aired on Thursday; by Saturday, the media circus around the bill was staggering, and within weeks, Congress made it law.  Stewart started the conversation, and the nation listened.  To a late-night comedian.  Who, unlike most un-funny “news” anchors, actually has something to say.

Jan 25 2011

Special Comment: Olbermann Where Art Thou?

Tonight is the State of the Union address.  As is the tradition, I will sit and watch it along with the rest of informed, educated America.  However, this year I’m likely going with Brian Williams and the fine folks over at NBC.  That’s right – no cable punditry this go around.  Why’s that?  Well, other than the fact that the particular partisan tone of “analysts” can become headache-inducing after about an hour, my favorite indignant commenter will be absent from the proceedings.  I’m talking of course about Keith Olbermann, probably the most popular liberal in the country right now (with Bill Maher, who still claims libertarianism, though no one’s buying it, at a close second).

If you follow the news media at all, you already know about Keith’s decision to split with MSNBC on Friday – the announcement was abrupt, but, according to insiders, no one should be surprised.  Olbermann, who has been described as difficult to work with, had been butting heads with his superiors at the network for some time now.  Many speculate it all came to a head when Olbermann was suspended in November for two days for violating NBC News policy by donating to two Democratic election campaigns.

It has also been reported, in good ol’ NBC fashion, Olbermann’s exit clause has strict stipulations on when he can do interviews and appear on television again – several months for both.  In a twist of irony, the deal was completed exactly one year to the day Conan O’Brien exited the company in a similar scenario, even though Keith is definitely not the A-lister Conan is.  O’Brien even made a joke about it on his show last night, claiming the new industry term for this kind of move is called giving someone “the Conan.”  And it looks like the “I’m With Olbo” campaign is already underway.

Whether MSNBC likes it or not, Keith made their network what it is today, even if that is a second-place channel with under half of the viewers of Fox News.  Olbermann, with his Countdown program, slowly built the progressive voice the network is engulfed in today, and he did it in the nick of time, too; the vitriolic rhetoric of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly had no clear counterweight on television until Keith came around to set things straight in his own fact-based, mocking, and intelligent way.

Countdown was probably the best written show on cable news, and Olbermann’s delivery, whether you agreed with him or not, gave the act of irascibility a certain charm his conservative rivals couldn’t match.  There’s no doubt Olbermann, with his now-dedicated following, will be back in some form, hopefully television where he belongs (I’m looking at you, third-place CNN….get to stepping!).  There have been talks, however, of a move to Hollywood or maybe a run for the Senate; I hope neither are true.  But in the meantime, while we wait and refresh Keith’s Twitter page constantly, here are a few of my favorite Countdown-related moments.

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Sep 17 2010

A Rally Worth Attending

In an obvious parody of Glenn Beck’s recent media-whore marathon on the Mall in DC, Jon Stewart announced his plans for the Rally to Restore Sanity, happening at the same location October 30.  Stewart proclaimed the rally is for those who are too busy and rational (you know, the majority of Americans) to yell loudly and irrationally in front of cameras and behind lecterns. He declared we will all gather, as one movement, to voice our support for those with microphones to “take it down a notch for America.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Not to be outdone (but obviously part of the event in his own special fear-mongering, pundit-satirizing way), Stephen Colbert announced his “disapproval” of his “warm-up act’s” battle cry and made his own big announcement: the March to Keep Fear Alive, happening at the same place at the same time as Stewart’s.  Whether you’re a rational, free-thinking Daily Show fan, or part of the fearless (yet also clearly rational) Colbert Nation, the event is sure to be fun, entertaining, and maybe even poignant, if those in the media and in power will listen to what these straight-talking comedians have to say.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

And, in case you were wondering, yes, I plan on attending. My sis and I are booking flights to DC ASAP and we hope to see you there! Years from now, when my children study about this time in American history, when they learn of the ridiculous rhetoric and the legendary comedy it spawned, when they discover the crazed talking heads and the hilarious detractors (who would grow to become TV comedy legends) I want to be able to tell them, “Yes, my children, I attended that rally. You know, the good one.”