The background: We’ll assume everyone already knows about The Daily Show, and how it manages to put forward some of the most searingly insightful journalism on US television, cunningly disguising it amongst swearing and dick jokes so that people watch it.
Recently, Jon Stewart (and his writing team) took apart a rant from CNBC’s Rick Santelli (full version of said rant here, gist: “hey Obama, don’t give money to mortgage-having losers, keep giving it to my inept Wall Street buddies”), and looked into the many failings of channel that liked to imagine it was home to the most searingly insightful financial journalism, but in reality contained little more than hot chicks and bald guys cosying up to CEOs and blithely repeating that everyone should keep pumping their money into the big financial institutions, because everything is all right. It’s okay. It’s fine. Not unlike a certain The Day Today piece.
Here’s the first of the Daily Show segments on Santelli and CNBC. If you want to leap to the smoking gun of CNBC’s ineptitude, skip to the 2:20 mark.
Similar pieces by The Daily Show followed, all of which were equally amusing and interesting, and which can all be seen here. This led to CNBC’s Jim Cramer, host of their own ‘events rendered entertaining’ show Mad Money, visiting various other branches of the NBC empire, from Morning Joe to Martha Stewart, complaining to all and sundry about how Jon Stewart was just the host of a ‘variety show’, and how come he never tells people what shares to invest in (clue: it’s not his job, and he has never claimed it was).
Some might say that painting yourself up as one of the nation’s biggest experts on economics when your own show involves doing this:
…doesn’t buy you a whole lot of credibility, so it was sure to be a pretty interesting confrontation when Cramer agreed to be interviewed on last Thursday’s edition of The Daily Show. Stewart has a good track record of conducting ‘proper’ hard hitting interviews when the need arises, but keeping his show’s comedic remit in mind, the more acerbic jabs are usually delivered beneath a veneer of self-deprecating wit. For this interview the gloves were off.
The More4 broadcast of TDS stupidly blanked out the captions explaining that the full uncut version of the interview was available on The Daily Show’s website, so here are embedded links of it all. In case the embeds stop working, you can see them all here. It’s quite clear that Cramer was well aware how inaccurate his dismissal of Jon Stewart as a mere variety show ringmaster was. His voice trembles increasingly as the interview goes on, as Stewart introduces more and more clips of an earlier Jim Cramer interview, each one roundly contradicting various claims he’d just made about him being a champion of Joe Investor-American. By the end of the interview, any remaining credibility Cramer had walked onto the Daily Show set with is lying in fragmented chunks on the floor.
Quick tip: if you’re too busy to sit through the whole interview right now, check out the first minute of the final clip, and then realise just what is going on here. It is quite genuinely one of the television highlights of the last ten years. The clip in question follows directly on from a clip of a previous interview Cramer gave, admitting to nefarious when dealing with Apple stock. For those with time to spare, or those who’ve checked out the third clip and who have now scrolled back up here, part one:
At 02.53 in the second clip, Cramer quite genuinely sounds like he’s fighting back tears, as his Emperor winky is put on display for all to see (metaphorically). Remarkable television. If any credit is on offer for Cramer, many people in a similar position may have broken down, or would have simply stormed off set. It’s quite clear how taken aback by the confrontation he is, for a good few moments it seems like he’s about to start calling for his mom to come and rescue him.
As we’ve said, this third clip is a tasty snapshot of just how good the interview is.
An almost mesmerisingly engrossing interview, and quite clearly as close as television in the 21st Century will be allowed to get to the work of Edward R. Murrow. By contrast, Jeremy Paxman only comes up with hard hitting fare like this in short bursts (plus, he’s not allowed to use the word ‘fuck’), and the BBC would never let John Humphrys have free rein to do something like this on screen.
There are a number of things that are quite depressing about this interview. Firstly, and most obviously, is the fact that this sort of thing isn’t allowed to happen anywhere near often enough, on either side of the Atlantic. Secondly, and most predictably coming from us, is that British broadcasters are completely incapable of making (or to be more accurate, incapable of commissioning and paying for) a satire show as good as The Daily Show. Really, they’ve had eleven years to come up with something, and despite having The Saturday/Friday Night Armistice (which, of course, pre-dated TDS) as a template to work from, the latest effort was ‘Tonightly’. Bloody hell, eh?
Thirdly, and probably the most depressing of all, is that it’s tremendously unlikely anyone who really deserves it will now be given the Jon Stewart interrogation treatment. The Daily Show writing team could really go to town on Scooter Libby, Rod Blagojevich, or – if there is any justice in the universe – Dick Chaney or George W. Bush, which is why it will never, ever happen. The easy rides previously given to Lynne Chaney and Tony Blair on their appearances on The Daily Show may have once made such events a minor possibility, but after the Cramer smackdown, their handlers will be keeping them well away from the vicinity of New York’s Studio 54.
So, good night, and tough luck.