Saturday, August 16, 2008

Two Guys

Two topflight comic/political/big influential voice guys in two pieces.

Jon Stewart in the NY Times, "The Most Trusted Man in America?" by no less than revered literary critic Michiko Kakutani, some smart praise from various sources, some reveal on how they think and write and build the show, interesting to read at this obviously historical juncture. And mention that he gets possibly obscure authors huge book sales bumps.

My favorite section is the nuts & bolts:
Offices for “The Daily Show” occupy a sprawling loftlike space that combines the energy of a newsroom with the laid-back vibe of an Internet start-up: many staff members wear jeans and flip-flops, and two amiable dogs wander the hallways. The day begins with a morning meeting where material harvested from 15 TiVos and even more newspapers, magazines and Web sites is reviewed. That meeting, Mr. Stewart said, “would be very unpleasant for most people to watch: it’s really a gathering of curmudgeons expressing frustration and upset, and the rest of the day is spent trying to mask or repress that through whatever creative devices we can find.”

The writers work throughout the morning on deadline pieces spawned by breaking news, as well as longer-term projects, trying to find, as Josh Lieb, a co-executive producer of the show, put it, stories that “make us angry in a whole new way.” By lunchtime, Mr. Stewart (who functions as the show’s managing editor and says he thinks of hosting as almost an afterthought) has begun reviewing headline jokes. By 3 p.m. a script is in; at 4:15, Mr. Stewart and the crew rehearse that script, along with assembled graphics, sound bites and montages. There is an hour or so for rewrites — which can be intense, newspaper-deadlinelike affairs — before a 6 o’clock taping with a live studio audience.

They go through the news and only then do they start putting together the script -- probably between 8 and 15 minutes of material written and delivered by 3:00pm. Is that, like, six hours? Less? There's often some prepared feature material, with Stewart just doing the wraparound, but those take time to vet through production as well.

I'm impressed, especially recalling how great the show ran when I saw it live two years this past June. (Anderson Cooper was the guest, but Samantha Bee did the green screen stand-up, hilarious.)

The second piece is by Michael Moore, the second guy, who's had a huge impact on political discourse now about 20 years, two decades, opening up long festering discussions from corporate greed as the major factor in unemployment with Roger and Me to laying plan the health insurance crisis in this country recently with Sicko.

He's got a big post up on his site and in Rolling Stone called, "How The Democrats Can Blow It ...In Six Easy Steps" and it's a barnburner from the progressive wing. I'm not 100% in agreement with him on all the steps, but I'm behind the first and last ones big time. The list (without the detailed explanations):
1. Keep saying nice things about McCain.

2. Pick a running mate who is a conservative white guy or a general or a Republican.

3. Keep writing speeches for Obama that make him sound like a hawk.

4. Forget that this was a historic year for women.

5. Show up to a gunfight with a peashooter.

6. Denounce me!
On that last one:
Obama, at some point, might be asked this question: "Michael Moore has endorsed you. But he recently said (fill in the blank with some outrageously offensive line taken out of context). Will you still accept his endorsement, or do you denounce him?"

And he better denounce me, or they will tear him to shreds...
But of course Moore means the opposite:
...So Barack, by denouncing me, you can help McCain get elected. Because when you denounce me, it's not really me you're distancing yourself from — it's the millions upon millions of people who feel the same way about things as I do. And many of them are the kind of crazy voters who have no problem voting for a Nader just to prove a point.

Elections have been lost by just 537 votes. I don't want that to happen to you.

So while I would hope and expect Obama not to denounce Mr. Moore's progressive voice, I do think he's making a threat. Even wrapped in a truth, it's somewhere between street corner ground-staking and blackmail. It's saying, loudly, in no uncertain terms, "I matter."

Programmings hours = feeding the beast, so Jon Stewart is essentially in a 4-day/week service industry. Michael Moore is an independent artist who doesn't have sponsors paying for his documentaries, he has the public. Two different influences on the public/commercial/political discourse.

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