the same day that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced that it was
pulling both the HarperCollins book by and Fox Network interview with
O.J. Simpson, the same company made public another, much less dubious
programming decision: Fox News Channel plans to collaborate with Joel
Surnow, the co-creator of “24,” on a new program meant to be a
conservative counterpart to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
created “24” along with the more liberal Robert Caldwell), is a
self-described “right-wing nutjob” who has talked about how happy he is
that Rush Limbaugh is a “24” fan. He told the Hollywood Reporter
that he wants the new show to slaughter “the sacred cows of the left,”
the type of things that are often left alone by Stewart.
Cutting-edge conservative humor is like liberal talk radio: no one can
explain why, but it just seems to fail every time it’s tried. Witness
such past attempts as Dennis Miller’s quickly-canceled CNBC talk show
and Colin Quinn’s stint anchoring “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night
like Comedy Central’s own “South Park” and movies like “Thank You For
Smoking” have gone after many of the excesses of the political and
cultural left - but they can hardly be called purely “conservative,”
especially since they go after the right as well. And that’s the rub: in
this age of such fearless, anti-PC comedy anarchy as “South Park,”
“Chappelle’s Show” and “Borat,” what liberal sacred cows could possibly
be left un-slaughtered?
hard to imagine why programmers would want to imitate “The Daily Show.”
In an age when a “Saturday Night Live” episode with two funny sketches
is considered a good night, Stewart and Co. often go dud-free for weeks
at a time. Its spinoff, “The Colbert Report,” looked at first like a
one-joke enterprise, but it has expanded its horizons over the course of
its year on the air and has actually gotten funnier over time.
of course, will argue that mass conservative audiences aren’t smart or
sophisticated enough to appreciate Stewart-style humor. I disagree with
this notion, partially because, while clearly liberal, “The Daily Show”
does have some conservative fans. Sean Hannity once admitted on the
radio that he enjoys the show, especially that segment when they have
children read “Hannity and Colmes” transcripts. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Joe
Scarborough, who a few years ago was even more of an O’Reilly clone than
Colbert pretends to be, now runs a nightly, YouTube-inspired segment of
clips from other shows, which nearly always features at least one
reason to expect that the idea won’t work is that all of the functions
that would be performed by a conservative “Daily Show” are already being
filled by other arms of conservative media, notably talk radio and blogs.
While most people don’t come to them for the laughs, Limbaugh, Hannity
and the bloggers often use humor to their advantage. But most of it is
of the “look how stupid the liberals are” and “look at the unflattering
picture of Nancy Pelosi” variety. The true believers love that sort of
thing, but it’s hard to imagine it catching on with a mass audience.
big issue is that any level of humor not of a G rating would likely
offend a large segment of the potential conservative audience. When Ben
Stein, the conservative writer/economist/actor, was hosting “Win Ben
Stein’s Money” on Comedy Central, he wrote a weekly Q&A column on the
American Spectator’s web site, and had at least one question a week from
readers objecting to the ribaldry of the show’s jokes. I could imagine
the Daily-Show-of-the-Right running into this same problem quite often.
If they go
forward with the show, Fox would be wise to contact Larry Miller, the
veteran actor/comic who has written some very funny, right-leaning
essays for the Weekly Standard, and held his own in several Bill
The idea of
a right-wing “Daily Show” is certainly a challenge, and if done right,
may very well work. But from the start, it already has much stacked
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