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Comedy Central's 'Fake' News Shows Entertain & Inform

September 15th, 2008 12:08pm EDT
The Daily ShowThey have had Bill Clinton. They have had Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards (all in a single episode). They have had John McCain. They have had Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report" are on four days a week on Comedy Central. What they do has been categorized as "Fake News", a kind of comedy that has been made popular by "Saturday Night Live".

Stewart's show is a spoof of your nightly news complete with anchorman, "on location correspondents" (who are actually in front of a green screen right next to Stewart) and "experts" (whose opinions more often than not are just plain ridiculous - and always hilarious). Colbert's "Report" (both Ts are silent) is a full-blown parody on character-driven news, most importantly FOX's chief pundit Bill O'Reilly and his "O'Reilly Factor".

But how "fake" are those news really? As the very, very short excerpt from the guest lists above shows, they have had the crème de la crème of national and international politicians as well as a huge number of renowned journalists on. And while both shows are clearly comedic in a satirical way, all of their stories are real - ripped from today's headlines, you might say.

The comedy stems from exposing the hypocrisy of politicians; or from showing the ineptitude the "real news" display in handling a story. When Stephen Colbert asks Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) who wants to display the Ten Commandments in every American court to name them and the guy only comes up with three, it certainly is hilarious; but it also is terrifying, as it tells us a lot about the political world we live in.


Lynn Westmoreland not remembering the Ten Commandments

When Jon Stewart shows clips of several pundits scolding Hillary Clinton for "playing the gender card" and then doing it themselves when Veep hopeful Sarah Palin is concerned, it makes us laugh - but on second thought it makes us shake our heads.


Clip: Sarah Palin Gender Card:
We should not even be talking about Sarah Palin because it's sexist.


Both Stewart and Colbert have said that their goal is to entertain, not to be political agitators - but can you really avoid that if your job is clever political-slash-media satire? It is not rare to find fans of the shows - for example in Facebook groups and on message boards - who claim they get most or all of their news from the "fake news".

To contradict the fakeness even further, international audiences can watch "The Daily Show - Global Edition" every weekend on CNN, which is considered to be the top-notch news channel if ever there was one.

Fact is that, sadly, the "fake news" isn't the worst place to get your news these days. But fact is also, that they're much funnier if you already have some knowledge about the ludicrousness of the world.

Give us your thoughts on 'The Daily Show' and the 'Colbert Report.' Make a comment!

Story by Johanna Schonfeld
Starpulse contributing writer