Tucker Carlson Gives Jon Stewart Tips On Comedy

Tucker CarlsonIf nothing else, Tucker Carlson’s latest column for the Daily Beast is a fount of unintentional hilarity. The notion that the former bow tie twerp has anything enlightening to say on any subject has long since been debunked. But for him to have the audacity to presume that he can school Jon Stewart on humor is endlessly humorous.

Carlson starts out by asserting that Stewart’s critique of Jim Cramer makes no sense:

Jon Stewart’s recent attack on CNBC’s Jim Cramer was so brilliantly performed, so smoothly produced and cruelly compelling, almost nobody noticed that it didn’t make sense.

Of course, it’s inevitably predictable that it is Carlson who ends up making no sense.

Stewart summed up the significance of what Cramer had said on the tape: “You can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear and at AIG, and all this derivative-market stuff,” he said sternly.

Except that you can’t draw any such line. In the video, Cramer hadn’t mentioned derivates [sic] or securitized loans or credit-default swaps, or any of the other exotic financial instruments that caused the fall of AIG and the current recession. There’s no evidence that Jim Cramer had anything to do with any of that, and Stewart didn’t offer any.

If only Carlson could comprehend that the point Stewart was making was simply that the “shenanigans” engaged in by shady Wall Streeters were the cause of our problems, not the specific ones in the clip Stewart showed. It’s called an “example.” Carlson goes on to describe as “even more farther-fetched,” Stewart’s accusation that business media at CNBC and elsewhere were negligent in their coverage in order to retain access to newsmakers. It’s as if Carlson knows absolutely nothing about the industry he is trying desperately to be a part of. What’s more, Carlson accuses Stewart of being “real.” And, yes, he meant that as a criticism.

…nobody as funny and sophisticated as Jon Stewart could possibly be getting that mad on TV over something so abstract. A fair assumption, but wrong. Stewart really was enraged. It was all entirely, strangely real.

At the Carlson school of comedy one must never display an honest emotion. This is beginning to explain why Carlson has never made anyone – ever – laugh.

But wait, it just gets funnier. Because next, Carlson brings up an epic moment in the worlds of comedy and media – Stewart’s appearance on, and subsequent demolition of, CNN’s Crossfire, starring Paul Begala and little Tuck Carlson. Why he would bring up this moment of shame for him, I can’t begin to surmise. But bring it up he did, and he admitted that even now, he doesn’t understand Stewart’s lament that he and Begala were “helping the politicians and the corporations.” So in his confusion, Carlson’s big complaint is that Stewart didn’t leave the building quickly enough after the show:

Unlike most guests after an uncomfortable show, Stewart didn’t flee once it was over, but lingered backstage to press his point. With the cameras off, he dropped the sarcasm and the nastiness, but not the intensity. I can still picture him standing outside the makeup room, gesticulating as the rest of us tried to figure out what he was talking about. It was one of the weirdest things I have ever seen.

First of all, why should Stewart “flee?” The show was not uncomfortable for him, it was Carlson who must have felt ill at ease. Remember, he was correctly identified for posterity, on national television, as a “dick” who needed to go to journalism school. Secondly, I think the weirdest thing for me to have seen would have been Carlson and crew trying to figure out what Stewart was talking about. I can picture them now, scratching their cocked heads, raising an eyebrow, and whimpering softly as they struggle to overcome their innate ignorance.

Much of the rest of the column is an exposition of Carlson’s jealousy and bitterness. Clearly, he has never gotten over the pounding he took from Stewart on Crossfire. His long-winded retort is just an extenuated version of “I know you are but what am I?” On CNN yesterday he even called Stewart a “partisan hack,” which is what Stewart called him on Crossfire lo those many years ago.

Carlson seems to get a little thrill from confusing the roles of news media and comedians. He repeatedly cites instances of Stewart asking his guests less than hardball questions. He admonishes him for not engaging in balanced mockery. And he is livid at the thought that Stewart’s audience appreciates him. What Carlson apparently doesn’t grasp is that Stewart’s job is to entertain first – something Carlson may never understand. Nor is he likely to enjoy an audience who appreciates him.

Carlson’s lessons on laugh-craft is strewn throughout his article. Here are some nuggets of his comedy curriculum:

  • Humor requires ironic detachment.
  • No one this earnest can remain an effective satirist.
  • Sanctimony is the death of humor.

Remember that, young jokemakers. It is the wisdom of a detached, earnest, sanctimonious, dweeb, who knows a thing or two about the death of humor. And who better to take comic tips from than a failed pundit. But Carlson isn’t through informing us. Approaching the end of this diatribe, he asks of us if we can recall the last time Stewart said anything with which we might disagree, because, after all, that is the hallmark of comedy. Then he closes by declaring that it is all over for Stewart, and it is too late to recover from his comedic collapse:

The great comedian is gone, maybe forever. Jon Stewart is stuck in lecture mode.

But one irony worthy of note still remains. At the beginning of his column, Carlson actually lauded Stewart as brilliant, smooth, and compelling. Then he spent the remainder of the piece characterizing him as confused, obsequious, and unfunny. Yet Carlson says it’s Stewart who is not making sense. There is only one thing to do after reading a piece like this from an envious, pathetic, loser, whose career is careening downhill faster than a stock recommended by Jim Cramer — Laugh!

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post Attacks Jon Stewart

In another example of Rupert Murdoch using his financially disastrous New York Post to whip people with whom he disagrees, the Post’s Page Six published a ridiculous hit piece on Jon Stewart.

The article points an accusatory finger of shame at Stewart for the sin of talking to his brother:

JON Stewart, the scourge of Wall Street and bane of CNBC, may have had a secret weapon in his corner to help him prep for his grudge match with “Mad Money” host, Jim Cramer – his older brother.

As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, Stewart’s brother, Larry Leibowitz, is head of US Markets & Global Technology at NYSE Euronext.

In effect, the Post’s Richard Johnson is criticizing Stewart for conducting research. You know, the sort of thing that reputable journalists are supposed to do. If you have a big interview coming up, you study the subject so that you are prepared to address it intelligently with your guest (assuming your guest is intelligent). Johnson, not surprisingly, wouldn’t know anything about this because it is, as I said, done by “reputable” journalists.

What’s more, Johnson’s assertion that Stewart was coached isn’t even borne out in the article. He simply states that Stewart has a brother in the financial business, but offers no proof that they ever discussed Cramer. However he does attack the brothers for engaging in some sort of undefined conspiracy:

“What a routine they have. One brother pretends to kick Wall Street’s butt by crucifying Cramer on his show, while the other brother is down on Wall Street kissing it.”

For good measure, Johnson closes the article by disparaging Cramer’s ratings, without bothering to mention the conflict of interest that he has as an employee of a corporation that also runs Fox News, a competitor to Cramer’s CNBC.

Keith Olbermann Was Right About TVNewser

In the recent dust up between Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and CNBC’s Jim Cramer, TVNewser inserted itself into the controversy with an anonymously sourced item that asserted that MSNBC was told to refrain from stories on the matter. TVNewser’s Steve Krakauer did not reveal who told MSNBC to do this, nor who told him about the instruction.

Keith Olbermann responded to Krakauer’s claim in a posting on Daily Kos. He denied that any restrictions were placed on him, and he noted Krakauer’s and TVNewser’s reputation for partisanship and for regurgitating Fox News PR:

“Frankly, the guy who posted this, the site’s Associate Editor, Steve Krakauer (‘SteveK’), is well known around the industry as being entirely in Fox’s pocket […] Rachel [Maddow] could get the cover of Newsweek and he wouldn’t link to it.”

Well, this morning TVNewser is featuring two stories on its front page on Glenn Beck (both by Krakauer), including one that links to a Beck interview by The Daily Beast. But no mention that Rachel Maddow was on David Letterman last night.

Good call, Keith. I have previously documented other incidents of blatant bias by TVNewser. In one story about the marital infidelity of politicians Krakauer cited Hillary Clinton (who has never engaged in infidelity) and John Edwards (who, at the time, was the subject of unsupported rumors in the National Enquirer). He didn’t bother to mention the multiple marriages and notorious philandering of John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani. The other story offhandedly referred to Al Franken as “a rabid leftie.”

Krakauer is not only in Fox’s pocket, he is a former Fox News employee. The evidence of TVNewer’s bias is all over its web site. It’s apparent in what they chose to cover and what they chose to ignore. And, most of all, its community of commenters posting remarks to their articles is a buzzing hive of partisans so far to the right they would make RedStaters nervous. They congregate in items referencing Fox News and are devotedly defensive of anything and everything Fox does and says. Their boards are thoroughly useless as a forum for media discussions. Any comment that is contrary to the rightist hive-think is pounced on and assaulted in overtly personal terms.

TVNewser may eventually put up some notice of Maddow’s Letterman spot, but that will not resolve the larger problem that the site is infected with slanted coverage and lunatic rantings. It’s a shame, because there is a real need for a web site that offers balanced media news and informed discourse.

Update: Well, TVNewser did get around to posting a brief notice that Maddow appeared on Letterman. But they also followed it up immediately with a ridiculous Krakauer composed hit piece on Jon Stewart (more on that here).

What’s Up With CNBC?

The cable news wars have been raging for years. But for the most part the combatants have been confined to the big three: Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. Headline News and CNBC have been regarded as niche players that weren’t really on the front lines.

All of a sudden CNBC has become the most talked about cable news network, just as the nation has inaugurated a new president and tries to weather a fierce economic storm. Much of the attention is couched in ridicule. Rick Santelli’s rant, that cast a bunch of elite commodities traders as emblematic of average Americans, was only taken seriously by the likes of Michele Malkin and her mush-brained followers. Jim Cramer was exposed as the clown that he is by a much better and more professional clown, Jon Stewart.

The backwash of this publicity parade is a boost for CNBC’s ratings and visibility. But why is it happening now?

CNBC has long been a friend to the business community. Its reporting rarely alerted viewers to imminent crises (like the the one we are enduring now) or corporate malfeasance (like Enron and Madoff). The anchors were openly chummy with CEOs, whom they courted for access, and some, like Larry Kudlow, were overtly partisan. CNBC elevated the art of bloviating by introducing the Octo-Pundit, where as many as eight self-styled experts yelled at each other from their respective video cages.

But with a lineup like Fox News and current events that favored their niche, they still needed a little extra push to get the recognition they felt they deserved. So along comes Santelli and Cramer and a concerted effort to expand their conservative profile.

Despite the blathering of Bill O’Reilly, the NBC News division has never been left wing. MSNBC was once the cable home of Michael Savage, Oliver North, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and it still features Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan. The rise of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow occurred strictly because of their success, not ideology. Nevertheless, in the past NBC has demonstrated its cowardice in the face of criticism. They are the network that canceled their own number one rated program, Phil Donahue, for fear of being tagged anti-war.

By ramping up the rightist rhetoric on CNBC, NBC News is attempting to harvest popular outrage from both ends of the political field. They can continue to throw liberals a bone with their primetime MSNBC schedule, while cozying up to their natural right wing allies on the business-oriented CNBC. And neither network will have its programming muddied with ideological balance. As an ancillary benefit, NBC will try to tamp down the criticism they receive from the right by pointing to their new heroes of ham-handed conservatism.

In the end, CNBC just hopes to siphon a few viewers away from Fox News, and to smother the new born Fox Business Network in its crib. Unfortunately, the way they have chosen to do that is to emulate the Fox model which is focused on aggressive conservatism, and hysterical, paranoid personalities. That won’t work for CNBC in the long run because Fox viewers are too cult driven. They won’t abandon the comfort of that with which they are familiar for a subsidiary of that which their Fox masters have convinced them is evil.

Now, more than ever, CNBC needs to concentrate on providing responsible financial journalism. By making themselves truly indispensable in the field for which they claim expertise, they will be far more likely to succeed and to serve the interests of their viewers.

Fox Business Network Ad Deliberately Dishonest

A couple of weeks ago, CNBC’s Jim Cramer was asked by an emailer if he should liquidate his account at Bear Stearns. Cramer said:

“No! No! No! Bear Stearns is not in trouble. If anything, they’re more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear.”

Shortly thereafter, Bear Stearns stock collapsed and the company was taken over by JP Morgan Chase. Cramer himself has been castigated and ridiculed for his response from many quarters, and now the Fox Business Network is piling on with a new ad:

The only problem with the ad and other criticism is that Cramer was right. The critics are either being deliberately dishonest or they have a severe case of attention deficit disorder. The emailer was asking specifically about Bear Stearns’ liquidity and whether he should close his deposit account. He was not asking about the company’s stock value and Cramer’s response had nothing to do with that. Cramer correctly pointed out that the company’s depositors would be fine because the Federal Reserve guaranteed those funds and that the worst that would happen is that another firm would acquire them. That’s exactly what did happen.

But that hasn’t stopped Fox from publishing a deceitful ad that misrepresents Cramer’s advice. It’s actually kind of funny that the ad’s tagline is “Turbulent Times Call For A Credible Network.” Credible? You mean like a network that doesn’t lie in their advertisements? I think this would be a more appropriate ad:

I’m no apologist for Jim Cramer. He has a pretty lousy track record on stock recommendations. And for a TV personality who behaves like a clown, he violates the most important rule for a clown – be funny! However, when he’s right he shouldn’t have to take heat from the likes of Fox – the network that, on their first day of broadcast, featured the Naked Cowboy offering financial guidance.

For the Record: On July 13, 2007, FBN’s current Managing Editor, Neil Cavuto disputed reports of the economy’s weakness saying that he “[didn’t] believe a word of it.” Since then the Dow has dropped 1,469 points (10.6%), the mortgage market has thrown thousands into foreclosure, and now a financial powerhouse has been reduced to rubble. That’s the sort of credibility you can expect from FBN which calls itself: The Network You Can’t Afford To Miss. More like: The Network You Can’t Afford To Watch.

Media Gangs Up On John Edwards

In the past couple of weeks, the press has taken a decidedly negative turn on John Edwards. The ferocity of the attacks and the diversity of their origin is curious, to say the least. Their obsession with housing and haircuts and speaking fees has become all-consuming. This media phenomenon was apparent to media critic and author Jeff Cohen who wrote:

“The focus on these topics tells us two things about corporate media. One we’ve long known – that they elevate personal stuff above issues. The other is now becoming clear – that they have a special animosity toward Edwards.”

Edwards is receiving treatment that is generally reserved for front-runners like Clinton, Obama, or Giuliani. Here is a sampling of the assault:

Jonah Goldberg: “[Edwards] gives new meaning to the term “poverty pimp.”

USA Today: “Edwards, most prominently, has undermined his passionate advocacy for ordinary Americans by seeming to be anything but ordinary himself. Expensive haircuts reinforce the elitist image of a wealthy trial lawyer…”

Sean Hannity: “[Edwards isn’t] up to the task of understanding the nature in the battle in the war that’s being waged against us.”

Jim Cramer (on Hardball): “[Edwards is] public enemy #1.”

Bill O’Reilly: “The former vice presidential candidate has sold his soul to far left interests […] Edwards is running a preposterous campaign. He lives like a sultan in a 30,000 foot North Carolina house […] Talking Points tries to respect all of those who want to serve their country, but Edwards is an exception. I have no respect for him. He’s a phony and is in the tank for special interests to damage this country.”

As an added bonus, O’Reilly offers swag for sale at his web site about which he says, “remember, when you buy anything on BillOReilly.com, a good portion of what you spend goes to charities, send a lot of kids, poor kids to camp this summer.”

Is O’Reilly a hypocrite as well because he is a multi-millionaire advocating help for poor kids? I might have a little more sympathy for these arguments if any of Edwards’ critics placed even a fraction of the effort on behalf of America’s poor that Edwards does. Edwards himself posed this question in response to these criticisms:

“Would it have been better if I had done well and didn’t care?”

This whole line of attack seems preposterous to me. First of all it is implying that you cannot be wealthy and concerned about the poor at the same time. If that’s true, it exempts about 90% of Congress and every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, except for Dennis Kucinich. Secondly, it is a rejection of the American Dream that holds that everyone can share in this nation’s prosperity; everyone except John Edwards, who is to be pilloried for the audacity of being born poor but achieving great wealth through hard work and determination.

You have to wonder why Edwards is getting hit so hard from so many directions. Jeff Cohen believes it has something to do with Edwards’ criticism of corporate-driven trade policies. Certainly that position would anger the captains of industry that wield so much influence in American government. And remember, many of those captains are at the helm of media conglomerates. It was probably not lost on those folks that Edwards was the first Democrat to refuse to participate in the Fox debate.

But I think that just brushes the surface of their objections. I think it goes much deeper into the matter of the class distinctions raised by Edwards’ “Two Americas” campaign. They are ultimately afraid that the populist appeal of a movement that truly seeks to bring economic opportunity to every citizen, instead of just the elite, could catch on. That’s why it has to be strangled in the cradle of a candidate who is running third in national polls. The risk extends beyond Edwards himself. If voters responded positively to the issue, the other candidates would adopt it. So even if Edwards does not become a contender, the issue stays on the table. This fear has already been articulated by Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine to Brit Hume on Fox:

“Well, I think the most interesting thing about these speeches was the extent to which both candidates borrowed from the No. 2 candidate we saw there, John Edwards […] to me it’s like they’re all joined at the hip on domestic policy”

It isn’t Edwards that they are all afraid of. It is economic populism, fair trade, and, in the end, the American Dream. That’s what the media and their mouthpieces in politics and punditry are trying to kill.