Opinion Brief

Did Jon Stewart jump the shark?

Stewart's "Rally for Sanity and/or Fear" has some commentators saying that the comedian has crossed the line from satirist to propagandist

Over 200,000 people joined Jon Stewart on the National Mall on Saturday for his much-ballyhooed "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" in Washington, D.C. The event mixed musical performances from guests such as Sheryl Crow with comical interludes in which Stewart and co-host Stephen Colbert poked fun at cable news fear-mongering. "The Daily Show" host concluded with a sincere speech urging Americans to come together rather than let themselves be divided by politicians and cable news. The earnestness led some — including MSNBC's Keith Olbermann — to accuse Stewart of 'jumping the shark.' Has Stewart crossed a line from funny to self-important? (Watch Stewart's speech at the rally)

The rally was no laughing matter: The "adoring and critically-challenged" media has labeled Stewart the heir to "every satirist from Swift to Twain this week," says David Zurawik at the Baltimore Sun. But everything at this rally — from the "superficial and easy scapegoating" of the media to the "pompous, empty, politician-phony closing speech" — suggested that Stewart is taking himself too seriously. An "exercise in ego" is not what America needs right now."Stewart-Colbert: A rally signifying nothing"

Colbert kept it from being too serious: The "semi-sincere" nature of the event might have been more awkward, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, were it not for Stephen Colbert providing the "clowny ying and/or yang to Stewart's earnestness." Whether threatening the crowd with a "swarm of peanut-butter-covered bees" or bringing out a "giant, Colbert-shaped 'Fearzilla,'" Colbert provided enough "belly laughs" to counter Stewart's gravitas."The clumsy, beautiful Rally to Restore Sanity"

A deserved response to our angry times: Some will say that Stewart's closing speech was a "Howard Beale shark-jumping moment," says James Poniewozik at Time, referring to the 1976 movie, Network. But aside from some "dangerously politician-like bits," the speech — and the rally as a whole — was an appropriately sane response to an "ugly midterm campaign and a lot of nasty fights on cable news." It was an "earned moment," no matter what the critics say. To me, "it recalled the Jon Stewart who returned to the air after 9/11, joking about being another media figure giving a lugubrious speech while also sincerely explaining why 'I grieve but I don't despair.'""Stewart and Colbert's rally: irony and sincerity, merged"

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