Thursday, December 10, 2015

Colbert and Noah

Early personal reviews for my used-to-be favorite comics is somewhat mixed.  I loved to sit down at the computer and watch Jon Stewart's The Daily Show and then right after that Stephen Colbert's The Colbert Report.  Both left: Stewart into retirement and replaced by some guy named Trevor Noah, while Colbert took over The Late Show when Dave Letterman retired.

The Daily Show was mostly an SNL skit on current events then they'd bring in a guest to hawk their latest book or movie.  A nice quick and very funny half hour.  Stewart was a master of delivery and the funny take on news clips was nothing short of genius.  So big was this whole schtick that Stewart was voted most respected newsperson in the US.  

Meanwhile, Colbert was manufacturing a whole different persona on his show that was a mix of Bill O'Reilly and Joe Scarbourough but looking an awful lot like Rush Limbaugh on occasion.  The writing had become so sharp and brilliant that it was starting to wrest Emmy awards from The Daily Show.  Since Colbert started on The Daily Show it was an example of student eclipsing the teacher.  But like all things, that too must end.  

What is left of the comedy?  Sadly, one survives in a different way, but the other is almost completely gone.  Colbert started his gig  first so lets review the Late Show.  I don't watch those shows at night and really haven't since the days Johnny Carson was King.  I'm in bed by then and up early instead of the other way around.  But with the advent of streaming all these shows are watchable anytime so I started catching Colbert to see if he was as funny with late night as he was on premium cable.  

There must be an unwritten rule that all hosts must have some uber hip New York type fellow as band leader.  Johnny had Doc Severinsen and Letterman had some almost-human doof called Paul Shaffer.  Alas, CBS execs probably told Colbert to find someone as odd so he found a guy named Jean Batiste.  Batiste is a pixie-ish stick of a guy who mutters incoherently and at the start is dancing or is it just convulsing about on the stage as he yells out Colbert's name.  Sometimes he is playing some kind of tonette-on-steroids-with-a keyboard thing wearing some mish-mash of outfits very voguish and very New Yorkish but might get you questioned for vagrancy anywhere else. 

Then we have the first chants of "Stephen" and if you are lucky that will be the last, but usually luck is elusive as we get another chant that was a staple with each episode of the Colbert Report.   Too bad they feel enthusiasm has to be manufactured by applause signs and cheerleaders.  But that's TV I guess.  The rest of this segment with title and the following segment will feature glimmers of the Colbert genius.   But sadly, network TV has rules so the genius is muted along with the searing take on American politics, lest someone is offended.  

Over at the Daily Show some guy named Trevor Noah, a black South African took over host duties. He was anointed by Jon Stewart as a great choice and, well, maybe they something I don't.  So far, and honestly it still early to carve his persona on the show, it is a weak imitation of what came before.  The jokes are a lot less hard-biting, the skewering is non-existent and so, all we end up with is a nervous host who laughs at his middling humor as if to let the audience know it was funny.  Even the back-ups are less funny. Granted, why would we think a South African can relay American politics with any degree of expertise?  But we aren't really a globally minded audience.  America is a lot less concerned with what happens around the world.  We think news revolves around us, and we even said to hell with metric system while everyone else adopted it.  Maybe Noah will be able to drive us to global politics as he tried by relating Donald Trump to African despots, but my guess is we aren't really driveable.  We want to poke fun at our own politicians not guys overseas.  Noah even tried to make light of  Canadian politics but they aren't really laugh-out-loud funny themselves, now that the buffoonish former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, is in rehab. 

My advise is to watch Colbert for the monologues.  As for Noah, the 30% drop in Nielsens is alarming but perhaps he will develop into at least a shadow of the previous host.  But, after all, I watch neither Colbert or The Daily Show for the personalities, but the humor.  Some people like Pee Wee Herman, some Adam Sandler, some Josh Grobsoehjsjsdowehugfusfg.  I liked those guys, Stewart and Colbert.  Lampoonish social commentary I guess.  They made me laugh, them and Lewis Black.  When you lose your avenue to laugh, it's no small thing. 

Besides, if you can't laugh at our politicians what good are they?    

1 comment:

  1. I watch bits of Trevor Noah from time to time. He has the unfortunate fate to follow Stewart. Someone had to be that sacrificial lamb. Stewart was smart and his satire was brilliant. Someone had to take the show, no one could take his place. I agree that Colbert in many ways surpassed Stewart. He shows flashes of his gifts on the Late Show but the format and intent of the show are different. He is absolutely one of the smartest people on television and one of the most compassionate. A truly gifted combination.