After a weekend’s drought of America’s favorite fake news sources, Comedy Central staples Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were back in the saddle last night cataloguing the weekend’s (or the last century’s) big events. Stewart took on Congress and their failed immigration bill, all the while pointing out how ineffectual the new “Do-Nothing Congress” has been on the issue. Colbert in his Colbert-iest fashion remembered Nixon on the anniversary of his resignation with two guests who were close to the action back in the 1970s. The Slate Night Review looks at the best of television’s late night political comedy.
The Daily Show
Jon Stewart is the channel’s premier political funnyman, topping ingenious political satire with some good old fashioned comedy improvisation. Last night on his show, he gave the nation a timeline of Congress’ actions on the immigration issue, specifically their inability to pass any legislation on the current humanitarian crisis involving thousands if stranded children. Initially, he says President Obama and the White House asked for a $3.7 billion package in order to address the crisis. The Congress countered with a $2.7 billion bill, but was unable to pass it. In frustration, Stewart asked his audience whether anybody (ANYBODY!) had any ideas on how to solve the situation.
The camera immediately cut to an interview on Al Jazeera showcasing two Ku Klux Klan members dressed in their well-known white robes and pointed hats. The two members were on record saying that they wanted a “shoot to kill bill” that would allow them to shoot any illegal or suspected illegal immigrants coming over the border. Stewart let the ridiculousness of shooting at kids coming over the border stand for itself, then said he was going to get a little “nit-picky.” He then highlighted the fact that one of the interviewees was wearing flip-flops with jeans. The comedian chastised the KKK member for such bad fashion sense on a television interview, then ended with, “No one is going to take you seriously as the master race if you can’t even tie your shoelaces.”
Left with the choice between shoelace-challenged KKK members and Congress, Stewart reluctantly chose Congress’ solution to the plan, which he showed was really no solution at all. The sheer inability of America’s legislative body to pass any meaningful bills or even any bill at all staggered Stewart’s imagination as well as his audience. He also chronicled “pizza’s darkest hour” at a Ted Cruz event in which the Senator told fellow Republicans not to vote for an immigration bill over a meal of pizza and beer. Then it was on to correspondent Jordan Klepper, the most recent addition to America’s Fake News Team, who faced the camera with a background of a boxcar and desert flying past. Klepper said Congress needed to IKEA-fy the law in order to prevent smugglers from convincing vulnerable groups from crossing the border. Stewart was skeptical of the efficacy of such a plan, but Klepper was insistent and Stewart soon went to a commercial break.
The final segment of the show was an interview with Elisabeth Moss who was promoting her new movie “The One I Love.” It was a tough interview because neither of them could really discuss the movie without giving away a key plot point. but Stewart’s genial affability made it bearable as Moss complimented him and he in return made some of his trademark sound effects for her. After a disheartening discussion of the ongoing immigration crisis, cartoon sound effects and some earnest flattery were a refreshing way to end the show.
The Moment of Zen, however, brought viewers back to the border as U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert apparently recited poetry about the border in droll fashion. The point that Stewart had been trying to make through the whole show was amply made in that short clip of the Texans excruciating recitation. Congress is ridiculous was “The Daily Show” conclusion and it is also the conclusion of the Slate Night Review.
The Colbert Report
Last night, Stephen Colbert took his audience back in time to the 1970s, an era before televisions had remotes or flatscreens, and when newsmen smoked cigarette after cigarette on air. In what was a homage as much to the 70s as to the man himself, Colbert chronicled in short form the history of Richard ”Jowelsworth” Nixon on the occasion of the 40 year anniversary of his resignation. Like all patriotic conservatives, Colbert expressed great admiration for Nixon, who he called his “favorite non-Reagan president” as well as his “favorite non-Dick Cheney vice president.” During his “Retro-Spectacular,” Colbert gave his audience a quick, hilarious history lesson on the legacy of Richard Nixon, including his poor showing at the first televised presidential debate with JFK and the opening of diplomatic relations with China. The “Fond Look Back” also discussed the Watergate scandal in some detail, with Colbert announcing that from then on it would be known as “Watergate-gate.”
While the host was doing his best to give the Colbert Bump to an impressive comeback politician, his two guests were giving views of the Watergate scandal from opposite sides. Pat Buchanan, Nixon’s former speechwriter, expressed his view that Nixon should have destroyed the tapes that led to his downfall. According to him, this would not have been obstruction of justice because they had not yet been subpoenaed by the court and were not yet considered evidence. He also discussed Nixon’s uncanny ability to come back from defeat, a characteristic that led him to reinvent himself and win the presidential election. Colbert chimed in with the observation that “Nixon resurrected his career twice. Jesus only did it once.” Comparing a famously corrupt Nixon to Jesus was just what the audience needed for a good laugh before the break.
The next guest talking about Nixon was John Dean who was part of Nixon’s White House staff at the time. He is famous for having testified against Nixon over the Watergate scandal and incriminating himself in the process. He ended up serving four months for conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, but he said that was the price he had to pay for telling the truth. Unlike Buchanan, he said that destroying the tapes would have been obstruction of justice. In a lighter moment, he talked about the famous picture of Elvis shaking hands with Nixon in the Oval Office. According to him, Elvis said he wanted a badge so he could be a Drug Enforcement Officer, something which both Colbert and his audience found very funny.
Overall, Colbert’s show tackled some tough historical facts which left the hilarity factor a little low. Even for the master of “truthiness,” America’s most famous political crook is hard to make a joke out of. The real comedy came from how the show was presented, complete with faux 70s television screen, Colbert in an era suit with a ghastly orange and brown tie, his sideburns bushing out from his coke-bottle glasses, and even a gimmicky request to change the vertical on the display accomplished by a hand reaching up to the fake nobs. As period homage goes, Monday’s “Colbert Report” was an excellent example and talk of Nixon was a good distraction from the otherwise depressing status of the world for the world and for the Slate Night Review.
By Lydia Bradbury