If I told you this post is going to be about Jon Stewart, would you expect it to be serious or comedic in tone? Tom Junod’s Big Esquire Profile of the man takes the former tone and suffers for it. Don’t get me wrong: profile writing is hard. You have to justify the time and money it takes to write the piece as well as the pages of magazine space they require. But any 7,000+ word story called “Jon Stewart and the Burden of History,” is going to suffer from an excess of self-importance (see: image above).
Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn in January of 1999. Three months later, he was cowering from a rampaging Vanilla Ice on MTV’s 25 Lame. These days, Jon Stewart no longer is willing to appear on a program that counted down the 25 worst music videos of the past 25 years. This could be for a few reasons. Perhaps he has no time for the silliness of MTV countdowns and finds himself more at home sparring with cable news talking heads in a Serious Manner. Or maybe he’s too old and famous. It could be that he’s simply too busy as the host of the Daily Show, which just picked up a few more Emmy’s, and shows no signs of stopping. Either way, his career has gotten to the point where he rarely involves himself in comedy outside of the confines of his own program, which it should be noted, is a comedy show.
So, how do we explain writing like this, from the profile: “It’s just that when you’re talking about Jon Stewart, you’re never just talking about Jon Stewart. You’re invoking the Jon Stewart narrative — the collective fantasy about Jon Stewart — and it leads to all sorts of inappropriate historical comparisons.”
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