Give Us This Day Our ‘Daily Show’
Any political cartoonist is wise to check in on late night television humor regularly, not to look for material, but to monitor the news cycle and keeps tabs on whom and what the American public is laughing at. Chances are readers will expect to see cartoons on those same topics in the newspaper.
But late night comedians rarely take strong political positions and are far more likely to make fun of the mere foibles of politicians than the substance of their policies. Snootier cartoonists are dismissive of editorial cartoons that have the soft bite of “Jay Leno jokes” and strive to produce more profound commentary often brimming with moral outrage.
Late night talk show hosts generally treat all politics and politicians as a joke but don’t take politics and politicians seriously enough to get angry. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be good hosts.
Jon Stewart at “The Daily Show” was a notable exception. He became essential viewing for cartoonists like me precisely because he took politics and politicians seriously enough to be outraged, and, in no small part because he asked the kind of pointed questions an editorial cartoonist would be proud to ask, his show did a better job than any other in setting my agenda.
I’ve drawn over four thousand political cartoons in the 17 years that Mr. Stewart has hosted “The Daily Show,” and I am sure dozens, if not hundreds, were inspired or influenced in some way by the show’s take on the same material. It is hard to imagine covering another presidential election campaign, or even another vote to repeal Obamacare, without his voice as part of my daily media diet.
And that is, perhaps, the highest compliment one political satirist can pay to another.