Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy into a Joke

Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy into a Joke

Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy into a Joke

Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy into a Joke

Synopsis

In the bleary late-night haze the twenty-four-hour urgency of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC blurs into the bubbling frivolity of Jay and Dave and The Daily Show in a strangely intimate way. Late-night comedy does more than simply induce apathy and dumb down our discourse. It adds its own dimensions to the interpretation of current events, even as it shuts out others.

Excerpt

It's a chilly night in late February 2006. Slide under the covers, fluff up your pillow, and grab the remote. (Click.) “The White House has given permission for a company owned by the government of Dubai [United Arab Emirates] to run six U.S. ports, including the Port of New York,” says Jay Leno. “What's next, we'll put Mexico in charge of immigration? How about Dick Cheney in charge of gun safety? Courtney Love in charge of Olympic drug testing?”

Turn the channel. (Click.) David Letterman says letting Dubai run the ports is “like telling Kirstie Alley to keep an eye on the buffet.”

(Click.) CNN's Anderson Cooper is soliciting the opinion of Congressman Peter King (R, NY), who finds himself in the awkward position of opposing a president of his own party. While King is careful to say “a full investigation may show the company can be trusted” (as President George W. Bush has been insisting), he can't help noting that the UAE was, “you know, one of only three governments in the world to recognize the Taliban.”

(Click.) Stephen Colbert says Bush supported the Dubai deal—which, while at least arguably sound policy, was politically tone-deaf—because he was thinking with his brain rather than his “gut.” “We all know he's not a brain thinker,” Colbert explains. “He doesn't make decisions based on facts.” (“Makes Facts Based on Decisions,” a bullet point on the right side of the screen retorts.)

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