Stewart/Colbert a credible news source?

SilvinoEdward Diaz

The world of late-night comedy just got a little more serious.

Not really. Comedy Central’s late-night lineup of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” has undoubtedly become a national phenomenon.

Recent Pew Research polls show that more than 20 percent of Americans 18-29 find “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” to be credible news sources.

And 6 percent of Americans under age 30 consider Jon Stewart their favorite journalist.

But still some ask if it is feasible – or even reasonable – to have comedians and actors breaking the news.

How and why have these shows suddenly made comedy relevant in American news?

The two shows differ greatly from one another. On “The Daily Show,” the writing is inclined toward a more traditional style of comedy.

The show frequently turns to newscasts and videos for its punchlines and then lets Stewart joke it off. The show relies also on reports by “correspondents” like John Hodgeman (PC from the Mac commercials) and John Oliver.

It is worth noting that Steve Carrel and Stephen Colbert were once “Daily Show” correspondents.

The show, produced and hosted by Stewart, has been on the air since July of 1996 and has received 11 Emmys and two Peabody Awards for excellence in news and entertainment.

Colbert, on the other hand, appeals to the audience through satire.

“The Colbert Report” is a satirical rendition of the punditry seen in conservative commentators like Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” and Joe Scarborough of “Scarborough Country.” Colbert plays a staunch God-fearing, George W. Bush-adoring, right-wing Republican with a peculiar phobia of bears.

His charm is his charisma, engaging with his audience through a character he defines as “a well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot.”

The comedy is in the character itself – not the portrayal of the news. On the show, much of the laughs are drawn from recurring themes, such as his overt sense of self-promotion.

When you watch Colbert, you are experiencing a dramatic performance rather than actual comedic commentary.

Though immensely disparate in terms of style and delivery, the shows, when seen as one, have a unique method of commentary that is like all good sociology; it examines the logic of our social behaviors and interactions.

It does so primarily by identifying the absurdities present in our fiendish 24-hour news culture and poking fun at them.

By feasting on the talking points of today’s news programming, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have turned American political punditry on its head.

In a news culture highlighted by Joe the Plumber and hockey moms, these shows have advocated against sensationalism.

More specifically, they represent a rebuttal against the age-old stratagem referred to as “fake news controversies,” including asking questions like “Is Obama a socialist?” and “Is there a real America?”

Stewart, when speaking about his style of journalism, says, “It is as if [all] the reporters are following the candidate,” Stewart said.

“There’s this a little pod that follows the candidate, and the better angle is from [further away] watching this little pod running around. All the networks are getting the same coverage and the same talking points, so at some point they are bound to start thinking alike.”

What differentiates the Stewart and Colbert programs from ordinary news outlets is that they do not do news; these shows are not out there looking for fresh headlines or premier access.

They don’t want to be the first to give you the story or to change the world.

However, when the Pew Research Center ranked the political knowledge of media audiences around the country, it found that “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” audiences ranked 11th and 9th, respectively, above TIME and Newsweek readers.

Stewart and Colbert are, simply put, great performers who know what to do with their stage and persona at all times and, like every late-night legend, have grown familiar to their respective crew, writers and, most importantly, audience.

They understand the comedy they’re performing; that’s good showmanship. And it’s a disciplined and sophisticated art.

The success of this Stewart/Colbert double whammy has opened the door for other novel news shows like CNN’s “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.”

But it will be long before we see political comedy of the caliber of this duo.

They have become the prime news source for an entire generation: our generation.