Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert Go to Washington: Television Satirists Outside the Box.

Jeffrey P. Jones, Old Dominion University
Geoffrey Baym, University of North Carolina
Amber Day, Bryant University

Document Type Article

Published by New School for Social Research in Social Research, volume 79, issue 1, Spring 2012. Bryant users may access this article here.


IN THE FALL OF 2010, DAYS BEFORE THE MIDTERM CONGRESSIONAL elections, Jon Stewart, comedian and host of Comedy Central's the Daily Show, announced he would be holding a rally on the Washington mall. Stewart was serious in intent, calling his undertaking the "Rally to Restore Sanity." Although a somewhat tongue-in-cheek retort to Fox News commentator Glenn Beck's "Rally to Restore Honor" held two months earlier, Stewart's rally was crafted as a broader response to a political culture overly infiuenced by cable news, one he found dominated by hyperbolic partisan rhetoric, driven by ideological fervency, and comprised of scorched-earth tactics by both the political right and left. Stewart wanted to gather citizens in Washington to plead for, of all things, moderation in American political discourse. Yet his call for rhetorical temperance was met by an avalanche of criticism from mainstream journalists, who penned dismissive articles on the rally with titles such as "Just Who Does Jon Stewart Think He Is?" (Farhi 2010), "Stewart-Colbert: A Rally Signifying Nothing" (Zurawick 2010), "Rally to Shift the Blame" (Carr 2010), and "Dude, Can I Have My Parody Back?" (Stanley 2010).