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Jon Stewart Was Made for Shutdown Jokes

Covering the shutdown may have diminishing returns for journalists, but for comedians it has provided seemingly endless grist. (With varying success: my colleague Isaac Chotiner wrote a post last week on Jay Leno’s very bad shutdown jokes.) The counterpoint to Leno's goony "who needs the government anyway" shtick is, unsurprisingly, Jon Stewart, who has proved himself to be the king of shutdown humor. In the year or so before he left for a sabbatical to direct a film about an imprisoned Iranian journalist, he had gotten less fun to watch, his smugness ballooning daily. And then John Oliver did such a stellar job in “The Daily Show” hosting chair that it was tempting to lament Stewart’s return. But the shutdown has been ideal Stewart fodder: which is to say, the kind of bureaucratic absurdity so self-evident that it hardly needs commentary, a perfect storm of political and media tail-chasing. Almost ten days in and he is still wringing jokes from the most redundant news imaginable. 

For instance, last night:

"[Moderate Republicans" prefer the term 'biparisan curious,'" said "Daily Show" Capitol Hill bureau chief Al Madrigal. "If they aren't open about their political orientation, how do they even find each other?" Stewart asked. "They use an app called Votr," Madrigal said.

“Shutdown Blame Game,” Oct 8th:

The roll-clip-and-rant routine has been trotted out nightly to solid effect; cable news has provided an embarrassment of riches. “I and my members decided that the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand,” said Boehner in a clip from his interview with Stephanopoulos. Stewart: “Did you fucking hear that?”

“Team Nihilism vs Team Incompetence,” Oct 7th:

This was perhaps the peak of "Daily Show" shutdown coverage. Stewart moderated this fake debate with classic Stewartesque exasperation-cum-idealism.  “The government seems to have an incredible opportunity here. If it could gain the people’s confidence through better execution of this program they would be in a tremendous position,” he said. As Team Nihilism, Jason Jones gave the middle finger. As Team Incompetence, Samantha Bee had a spinning Mac pinwheel over her face.

“Bias on Bullshit Mountain,” October 3rd:

In earlier shutdown days, Stewart played a Fox news clip of an anchor complaining: “According to the media research center, network evening news stories over the last two weeks have blamed the GOP 21 times and blamed democrats none.” Then he leaned back and raised an eyebrow. “And they’re also blaming floods on water, not fire, and sunsets on the rotation of the earth, not giant feathered serpents who devour the sun at night.”