COMMENTARY | “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” teams took a sabbatical last week from bringing satirical commentary on politics and national media to Comedy Central viewers. And for many of programs’ 1.5 million plus nightly viewers, it was a week void of any news updates altogether.
But is the fact that so many people get their news solely from Jon Stewart necessarily such a terrible thing? In short, yes. But it may not be as terrible as you might think.
It should come to no surprise that there may not be a tremendous overlap between viewers of other Comedy Central shows (such “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “South Park”) and hard news programs like CNN or NPR. While it is never smart to get all your news from one source (“The Daily Show” describes itself as a comedy show, not a news source), television viewers could do worse than “The Daily Show.”
According to a 2011 Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, regular viewers of Fox News were less informed about current events than those who did not watch any news programs at all. The same study found that when host Jon Stewart discusses a current event, viewers are more likely to retain the facts than viewers of other news sources.
This may be because Stewart and Stephen Colbert speak the language of millennials — sarcasm and curse words. Through mockingly analyzing news stories, the programs challenge viewers to think more critically about the information that is presented to them from news networks and the decisions made by the U.S. government.
Case in point: On the Thursday night before the week-long break, “The Daily Show” aired aninvestigative piece on American foreign policy. In the two-part segment, Daily Show “Senior British Person” Jon Oliver presented yet another way “The Daily Show” is better than most real news networks.
In the report, Oliver investigated the Obama administration’s decision to cut funding to UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations that aims to promote peace and eradicate poverty. In the segment, Oliver fused humor with heart as he traveled around the globe speaking to those who were being assisted by the millions of dollars in funds and those responsible for taking that money away.
The episode concluded with a face-to-face conversation between Stewart and Oliver, who admitted that it was apparent that the decision to cease donations to send a message would have a negative impact of millions of impoverished and oppressed people from around the world.
Ultimately, Daily Show reports like this one will surely give its young audience a more cynical view toward American government. But again, that may not be such a terrible quality to have. In fact, it could be a particularly valuable trait to possess, especially for those who will be voting this season, many for the first time.
The Comedy Central duo (John Stewart and Stephen Colbert to a lesser extent) has continued perhaps unintentionally to challenge this generation’s young people to form opinions through collaborative research and critical thinking — paving a road to a new type of rational groupthink. And that’s tonight’s word.
This article was originally published on Yahoo! News through the Yahoo Contributor Network which was shut down in July 2014. For more content by this author that was originally published on Yahoo! News, click here.
Jon Stewart on the set of The Daily Show. Photo credit: Kevin Fitzsimons/ Comedy Central