This morning, Jon Stewart sat in a laid-back breakfast get-together with some of the most accomplished and well-respected political journalists in print journalism and asked, "Why do I take this more seriously than you?" To my eyes and ears, his question cast an uncomfortable cloud of uncertainty over the coterie of twenty or so men and women. Should they laugh? Were they being scolded? Was there a graceful way to refill their glasses of bloody mary?
This entire breakfast was without a doubt the second most fascinating, most I-can't-believe-I'm experiencing-this, thing I have ever witnessed in my admittedly very unfascinating and inexperienced life. (Coming in just behind that lion/buffalo/crocodile throwdown video on YouTube. But this was so, so close.)
Let me give you a bit of back story before I continue…
Sometime last week Comedy Central invited a very short list of prominent newspeople (mostly print media, but a smattering of TV and Internet folk) to sit down with Jon Stewart and have an informal breakfast/chat at the ungodly (by bloggers' standards) hour of 8:30 am. By a quarter till nine, the cozy conference room on the University of Denver's campus — where The Daily Show is filming all this week — was stuffed full with well-tailored suits, smart blouses and skirts, just-punchy-enough suspenders and confidence-inspiring haircuts, all worn by people who strolled comfortably about the room greeting each other casually by their first names, joking, laughing, eating bagels and sausage. These people represented The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Associated Press and some other heavy-hitter news organizations that I really have no business not noting.
And then there were these two kinda creepy-looking guys pressed off to the back of the room, standing awkwardly in the ill-fitting creased "grown-up" clothes they'd obviously forced upon themselves for the occasion, doing their best to not attract attention while simultaneously trying to not attract not-attention. Those two guys were me and Michael. (The only other Internet people that I know were invited were from Politico, which should give you some perspective on the absurdity the situation.)
How the fuck did this happen? I don't know. I'm just happy that I walked out of there without having a bucket of pig's blood tipped onto my head.
Anyway, at around nine o'clock, Jon walked in, still unshaven, in a t-shirt, khakis and boots. "I didn't realize we were wearing suits," he joked. They laughed. He said something else. They laughed harder. He said something not particularly funny. They still laughed. Despite the bright beaming disparity of uniform, it was obvious who was filling the alpha role this morning.
I'd like to point out right here that I'm not writing this as any kind of indictment or "gotcha!" piece about the journalists in attendance. I am a big admirer of many of these people. If I listed their names, you'd know them. (And, mostly likely, they'll be writing their own articles about the breakfast anyway. So, whatever.) Two of them, at one point, sidetracked the (mostly-one-sided) conversation with Jon to debate the pros and cons of having "off the record" dinner dates with presidential candidates, weighing whether getting to know the globally influential men and women on a personal level trumped keeping an objective journalistic distance. Yes, those kinds of people.
For the most part, their questions for Jon — the "informal breakfast" very quickly devolved to a press junket (wait, "press junket" isn't quite the right word; let's go with "college symposium") — were informed and thoughtful and…
…to be honest, more than a little fawning.
These people were clearly enthralled by Jon Stewart. Yeah, Jon Stewart. Little Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, the struggling stand-up comedian from New Jersey who had that totally cool and underappreciated talk show on MTV all those years ago. They sat packed together — with their notebooks and laptops — around a large rectangular table, while Jon sat alone at its head, and they asked him what could be done to keep newspapers vibrant. What wisdom did Jon Stewart — who now had presidential candidates clamoring for spots on his fake news show on key election nights — could he impart?
And thus spake Jon Stewart.
Continue reading Part Two.
Tags: Democratic National Convention, Jon Stewart, The Daily Show