What are the parodists to do? The more they bend and exaggerate the subject the more absurd the subject becomes. Instead of the parody being on a different track altogether, now it appears parody and reality are racing to the (dreadful) finish. It even gets to the point that people can’t tell the difference between the two. So what are the parodists and satirists to do?
Recently, they’ve taken to having a news program in the Daily Show. When the parody becomes a primary source for news, which isn’t unwarranted as I’ll explain later, is the problem with the consumers of the news, the delivery of the news, or the news itself? The Daily Show is a swipe at the television news programs with its format of roving reporters on the scene and ridiculous exposes. This format is a straight shot at television news and the stories they create. Jon Stewart’s reporting of the current stories and complete ridiculing of the news itself only rakes in the news programs that feast on this tripe as collateral damage. The real target of his jokes are the PR-minded politicos who are used to playing to the willing, eager, and, homely “practice” girls of the mainstream media and appear absolutely ludicrous when looked at objectively*. This uncovering of the ugly face of politics does actually reveal, if not the real news then some closer approximation of it than is typical. Is it any wonder that a generation so blatantly lied to for so long seeks the refreshing near-truth of comedy for their news? I’ve heard it said that comedy is the first place one can hear challenging ideas because it can disarm the usual defenses enough to get the message across. It is in this light that Jon Stewart has the opportunity to ask questions – serious questions – to the likes of Alan Greenspan and Lynn Cheney.
Other sources of news come via pundits like Bill O’Reilly, so the parodists stepped up their sarcasm and took on the punditry in the persona of Stephen Colbert. In order to parody these shows, Colbert has to be so far over-the-top that he often falls out of character and just laughs at himself on the air, especially during interviews. Even with such hyperbole it appears some people can’t see it and regard him as the new edgy pundit in the game. So when a parodist’s most absurd isn’t absurd enough, what does he turn to? A Presidential campaign.
I see two flaws with Colbert’s approach. The first would be the already-atmospheric level of hyperbole present in this genre. It is a high bar he’s setting for himself; going up against the professionals. The second (minor) flaw I see in his run for office is the mixing of disciplines. Pundits don’t usually run for office; they just talk about everything. And most politicians don’t have talk shows because if allowed to talk that much, their ruse would be up and everyone would know them as a huckster. Perhaps Colbert is taking this cross-over approach to highlight the parody of both sides, which seems to get past some of the more dull observers. I can’t say, but finding out ought to be fun.
*By objective, I don’t mean to imply that The Daily Show is fair and balanced or impartial to certain ideologies. It seems they are a mix of true liberal ideology, attacking power and establishment, and modern “liberal” ideology clamoring for more government programs and market interference. These ideologies tend to shift and sway depending on the subject of the joke.