Cramer On The Daily Show: Too Boring To Liveblog

Hotly-anticipated interviews by Jon Stewart can’t help but be anti-climactic


Cramer On The Daily Show: Too Boring To LiveblogUpdate: My own reaction to the interview is obviously a minority view; much more typical, and probably more accurate, is James Fallows’ reaction.

I was going to liveblog it, but the civility of the thing, along with the finance talk, is just hurting my mind. Yeah, he’s got the YouTube clips of Cramer talking about how to manipulate stocks. And we’ve got both hosts in-character: Stewart has chosen to play the role of the representative of his audience, mischievous but angry at the big guys, and Cramer is responding by also pretending to be the audience’s friend, who’s trying to guide them through the mean world of finance that he knows so well. Both of them are playing characters, but considering that this is Stewart’s show, Cramer’s not doing too badly. He made the right decision to play the meek, cordial guy whose feelings are hurt. Here are some random thoughts, as opposed to liveblogging:

– I find it interesting that Cramer gets tongue-tied and flustered when Stewart compares CNBC to infomercials. The talk about the failings of financial reporting aren’t that hard for him to respond to, because he agrees with all that, but the fact that his network is basically pointless entertainment rather than news is the thing that really gets him nervous.

– Who is the Happy Days obsessive on The Daily Show writing staff? They called Bernie Madoff “Arthur Ponzarelli,” and this is like the half-dozenth Happy Days reference this year.

– Stewart knows lots of guys on Wall Street. No wonder the audience can’t respond with particularly hearty applause. What I mean by that is, that’s the one moment in the interview where Stewart admits that he is a rich member of the media elite. The weird thing about this interview is that it’s between two members of the media elite whose careers depend on pretending they aren’t.

– Stewart is on safer ground when he talks about the problem of the culture of reporting, believing whatever your sources tell you, since this is a problem that applies not just to CNBC but to everything. But he doesn’t get much time to talk about this issue, because…

– The interview ends abruptly. Maybe they’ll show more of it in another episode, maybe not (it was apparently very long and had to be edited down, hence the awkward cuts), but what we got of it was pretty tame. Not because they didn’t scream at each other; these guys like each other. But the original point of last week’s segment has gotten almost completely lost in this interview: it was, you’ll remember, a response to Rick Santelli’s statement that foreclosed-on homeowners were “losers,” and the response was to show all the CNBC people who exercised bad judgment. It was about the bizarre spectacle of people who helped create the financial mess with their bad judgment using the “bad judgment” accusations against homeowners and such. But I don’t really know exactly what this interview with Cramer was about. I don’t blame Stewart or Cramer for that; the problem is that this interview couldn’t help but be mostly about Jim Cramer — even as Stewart tried to emphasize that Cramer is not the issue — and the original issue got lost.

Moral of the story, for me: Hotly-anticipated interviews on The Daily Show can’t help but be anti-climactic.

Addendum: Stewart did get in one reference to the original issue (and Cramer basically had to agree with him), but it was fleeting. The thing that interests me most about what’s going on here is the question of where populist rage should be directed. CNBC, for obvious reasons, wants to deflect populist anger away from the culture it represents, so you get Rick Santelli’s new definition of populism as a revolt of traders and investors against “losers.” But the reason I found the Stewart/Cramer interview a bit low-voltage is that both interviewer and interviewee seemed to be in agreement on who we should be angry at; they were just disagreeing on what to do about it.

And I agree with a commenter that the Daily Show/Colbert Report interviews are often spoiled by the audience’s need to cheer and applaud when the host makes a gotcha point. It often seems to stop the conversation from going anywhere.

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Cramer On The Daily Show: Too Boring To Liveblog

  1. I think they were anticipating the anti-climactic-ness of it all with the whole opening credits sequence. Though maybe not; that was probably the least amount of writing in a Daily Show episode since Jon’s improvised (I believe) monologue at the top of the first post-9/11 show, which was heavy on light-hearted clips. I’d share with you, but thedailyshow.com, Canadian IP addresses, comedynetwork.ca redirect, yadda yadda yadda, damn them all.

    One thing that was unbearable was the audience cheering and applauding just about any point they could understand of Stewart’s. It’s always been annoying to hear the audience drag out an interesting interview by interrupting every time the speaker alternated from Stewart to the “enemy” interviewee, but seeing it through three segments cemented it. I’m sad that when I attended a Colbert taping in September, I got swept up in the moment and jeered at a mention of George W. Bush doing something George W. Bush-y. It’s hard to resist, but you’d hope a hive mind would recognize after 15 minutes of cheer (or however long the interview actually lasted) that maybe it was time to calm down.

    • Interesting. Yes the (probably induced) applause is annoying — but, how about that comedynetwork.ca redirect. Why won’t somebody who works there realize how counterproductive that is when you’re trying to capture audience for your product?

  2. Actually, I thought Stewart was harder on the guy than I expected him to be.

  3. Actually, Having just watched it, Jon Stewart gave him a pretty dressing down. I only wish Maclean’s had the guts to do so instead of having to rely on comedy shows. Your article reeks of journalism envy.

  4. I thought it was terrific – with so many talking heads giving stupid advice, it’s time they got called out on it.

    Terrific! Bravo Stewart!

  5. “They called Bernie Madoff ‘Arthur Ponzarelli’ . . . It’s unfunny AND offensive.


    Of Italian Descent

    • In their defense, there are only so many puns that work with “ponzi”. It’s not hilarious, but I thought calling the ponzi scheme guy “Ponzarelli” was at least mildly amusing. Certainly not offensive (though your comment may have been sarcastic).

      • It was ironic, sort of, and “Ponzarelli” did make me chuckle — but I’m using corticosteroids to ‘thin’ my skin thereby increasing my intolerance. I need to do this in order to understand the minds of neo-cons and free marketers like Cramer and Rick (rhymes with Ponzarelli) Santelli.

  6. The one thing that really struck me was that Cramer came on and practically admitted that he had been putting on a big show of being angry at Stewart, but that he wasn’t actually mad at him.

  7. That really wasn’t an interview. What Stewart presented was an indictment of all the smart masters of the universe whose greed and “cleverness” wrought this financial disaster. For the most part Cramer nodded agreement. What else could he do? Stewart spoke plain truth.

  8. As JMD says “Stewart spoke plain truth.” With such luminaries as the market sycophant Marc Steyn and Andrew Coyne and other cheerleaders on your staff, it is clear to see why you wouldn’t like Jon Stewart. Your bias is showing.

  9. I actually share the “too boring to liveblog” view. There was no confrontation, really – it was like Cramer was talking to a scolding schoolteacher (because by constructing himself as “just a comedian” John Stewart cannot be criticized, yet can come out with a clear and consistent editorial slant).

    • Is Stewart really “constructing himself” as just a comedian, or is he just a comedian?

      All this stuff about “editorial slant, and “bias” and a “lack of objectivity” just seems so ridiculous to me. Why on Earth would Stewart need to concern himself with such things? He runs a COMEDY SHOW. His lead-in is Flight of the Conchords, or some stand-up special, depending on the night. After Colbert, it’s South Park, The Simpsons and King of the Hill.

      I know Stewart is a powerful media personality, and that people take him seriously, but that’s not really his fault is it? I don’t think he’s really putting on an act when he pleads with people to stop taking him seriously, and remember that he’s just a clown. He’s PLEADING with you to stop taking him so seriously. While there may be some element of performance to it, I don’t think Stewart is “constructing himself” as “just a comedian” to slip something by people. I think he feels he’s just a comedian, and he’s right. Comedians aren’t journalists. They’re not even pundits. They’re ALLWED to have an editorial slant. Hell, they’re pretty much REQUIRED to have an editorial slant. That’s pretty basic to the essence of comedy, isn’t it.

      When we spend time talking about Jon Stewart’s relative biases, or “editorial slant” or consider criticizing him for not being “objective”, that’s our problem, not Stewart’s. Especially when it’s actual non-objective”journalists” on “news” networks (I’m looking at you Scarborough) doing the complaining.

  10. This is part of what angers me about John Stewart. He’s shown that he (or his staff) has the ability to point out the hypocrisies of politics and media that we are daily subjected to, yet he generally only uses this to trivialize them. He ends up presenting these things essentially as if there’s nothing we can do, it’s just how life is.

    And yet once in a while you see stuff like this, where he tries to indicate that he’s actually concerned with journalism and in favor of things getting better. Where he puts together a pretty scathing indictment not only of CNBC but specifically of how Cramer is a flat out liar when he attempts to portray himself as being on the side of the people. (Cramer’s cries of “Oh I try to expose it every day” seem pretty thin when he’s being shown promoting it to a more limited audience).

    So the question arises, if Stewart is truly concerned, then why on earth does his show try to instill in us greater complacency about the worst of these abuses — the ones that even we can find clearly documented — rather than encouraging us to stand up and go “Where the hell is my torch and pitchfork? These guys need to be dealt with!”

    • So the question arises, if Stewart is truly concerned, then why on earth does his show try to instill in us greater complacency about the worst of these abuses — the ones that even we can find clearly documented — rather than encouraging us to stand up and go “Where the hell is my torch and pitchfork? These guys need to be dealt with!

      Perhaps it’s not more complicated than that he’s focusing most of his efforts on making people laugh. I’m just not sure we should be looking to Stewart to lead the revolution, as torch and pitchfork rage isn’t necessarily conclusive to uproarious laughter.

      My sense is that occasionally, Stewart is legitimately just SO FRUSTRATED by what he sees, that he needs to go beyond his role as comedian a bit (as, for example, when he sees journalists and pundits, who normally seem totally oblivious to the notion of objectivity, and “investigation” complaining that he, a comedian, isn’t objective and hard-hitting enough). To a certain extent that’s an act too (not that it’s not sincere, but that he plays it up) but my own impression is that when Stewart gets “serious” that’s a bit of the real Stewart poking through. He certainly plays up the “everyman” bits, and I’m not saying there’s not still some performance going on, but I think this is closer to the “real” Stewart than a character he’s playing.

      It’s always harder to tell where that line is with Stewart as opposed to, say, Colbert, as Stewart plays his fake news anchor shtick much more “straight” (if that makes sense) than Colbert, who is obviously (or at least MORE obviously) playing a role.

      • Perhaps not, but that’s the exact problem. He’s concentrating on making us laugh about these things, which, if you really think about it, we shouldn’t be laughing about but rather be up in arms about and taking action against.

        I’m not looking at him to lead the revolution, but if he tends to agree with his goals, then he should at least get the hell out of the way.

        • Err.. if he tends to agree with “its” goals.

          • “Stewart is legitimately just SO FRUSTRATED by what he sees, that he needs to go beyond his role as comedian a bit…”

            Yeah right – frustrated all the way to the bank. Why do we all lose our collective critical thinking hats all of a sudden when looking at Jon Stewart and his concerned citizen act? The problem with the Jon Stewart worldview is that it is naively simple and black and white.

            The Jon Stewart worldview (and this is separate from his obvious liberalism, something he cannot escape being overly reliant on an overwhelmingly liberal audience) is that politicians are bad and hypocritical, and they get away with it because our fluff-obsessed media treats them with the kid gloves. Now, lets ignore for a moment the partisan composition of where Stewart thinks this happens primarily (obviously he thinks it is largely a sin of the right – indeed, he only decided CNBC was evil when it started trying to pin the continuing stock crash on Obama – Cramer’s bad calls were just as lousy before Santelli’s rant).

            Jon Stewart knows, as somebody who has a talk show portion on his show, that journalists (fake and real) must trade off incisiveness for access. He knows, as a politically informed person that politicians face genuine constraints on their actions (indeed, he implicitly seems to acknowledge that with Obama, forgiving him with “but I don’t think he really believes all that stuff”, in the same way that I, as a partisan hack, forgive all of Harper’s sins with “Harper needs to do that to get re-elected”). Stewart doesn’t pick his targets as part of some moral crusade to save America (not even as part of a left-wing one), he picks his targets because they are easy, and because they will appeal to his fan-base.

            If you want a truly critical media, we need less Jon Stewart, less Limbaugh, less O’Reilly, and more Jim Lehrer, more Walter Cronkite and more Mansbridge. Stewart attacks easy targets in a battle he knows he can win. His editorial slant, like that of other soft news hosts, reinforces the partisanship of news audiences, and imposes a major burden on soft news anchors like Stewart to target the powers that be, when the powers that be are popular among their audiences. Fox News had to wait till 2007/8 to begin being critical of Bush. How long must we wait before Obama gets some of the same from Colbert or Stewart?

            Thwimm, I think, is wrong. Jon Stewart’s problem isn’t that he makes us laugh – indeed, I wish the Daily Show had more jokes and fewer partisan cheer lines. Some of the most talented folks in comedy are Daily Show alumni. So in a sense I agree with Stewart’s final agreement with Cramer – Stewart should do fart jokes, and Cramer business reporting. The problem is that audiences want fart jokes with their news, and so long as Jon Stewart is out there, he crowds out the already dying news market like a lead whoopy cushion.

          • Try watching the show.

            He’s been pretty quick to criticize many of Obama’s recent actions as well — where they give the easy videoplay to do so. The difference you’re seeing is that Obama’s mistakes don’t tend to be those that are easily caught by a videocamera, unlike Bush.

        • I’m not looking at him to lead the revolution, but if he tends to agree with his goals, then he should at least get the hell out of the way.

          See, that makes no sense to me. It’s like saying “Stop mocking the ridiculous, or we’ll keep having ridiculous things happen”. It’s (to me) kinda like saying that George Carlin was right to fight the FCC in court, but wrong to make fun of the FCC taking him to court. As though the FCC’s attempts to stifle free speech were SO SERIOUS that they shouldn’t be mocked. I don’t think Stewart’s goal is to make us laugh “about” these things (’cause no, a lot of the underlying issues aren’t funny) but to laugh AT these things, and how insane and ridiculous they are.

          I mean, are we laughing to keep from crying sometimes? Sure. However this sense that Stewart has somehow, I don’t know, betrayed something by not replacing his comedy show with a solemn and serious discourse on the decline of American politics and culture, and what can be done to revive it, seems to me to miss the point entirely. And frankly, I think Stewart’s mocking of these things, and making us laugh at them will probably end up having a greater impact for the good then if he was serious.

          • And here I think we’re getting into McLuhan and communications theory. Carlin’s rants took place in an entirely different medium, where he would stick to a single topic and work through it for a few moments, prompting thought in the audience. If you ever had the privilege of watching one of his shows in person, yeah, you laughed your ass off during the show, but you’d walk out thinking about what he said and implied. He mocked, but as an audience member you got that there was a deeper point to the mocking.

            Stewart, constrained between 12 minute commercial breaks and further constrained (of his own choosing) to the 30 second news-byte, eliminates any opportunity for deeper consideration to happen. If you want to pause and go “Wait.. what? Well that’s just stupid, man, somebody oughta do something.” you’ve already missed the next comedy byte. Stewart doesn’t address the deeper points of the hypocrisy at all, as he himself points out his humor is essentially confined to turd mining and making a funny face about it. In that respect, he’s not just making fun of it, he’s trivialising it, and that’s the key difference, and the key problem.

            What Stewart does is not satire, it’s point and laugh. And yes, this stuff is too serious for us to just point and laugh. We absolutely need it made fun of — the absurdity pointed out — but we need it done so in an intelligent way. A way that gives us the opportunity to think that there may be more we can do about it than simply point and laugh before shaking our heads and walking away. Stewart’s style doesn’t provide that opportunity, and in that respect, I think it’s actually far worse for us than *not* having Stewart. The only thing that redeems it is that occasionally we get the bits like this with Cramer. Where he discards the 30second soundbyte style and actually allows some fuller exploration of the topic.

          • Mr. Thwimm,

            Your two-paragraph version is much more convincing. Actually that seems to be the academic consensus on the impact of the Daily Show as well. It actually doesn’t create dumber audiences per say (Daily Show viewers are among the best informed) but it does create cynical ones. Daily Show viewers, and those uninitiated exposed to the show in experiments, exhibit lower trust in institutions, and in 2004, gave lower evaluations to both presidential candidates.
            In a sense, Stewart’s problem may be that he lacks a positive vision for what the media should be like (beyond say, a time machine to 1973). Ironically, so long as he is out there making “fart noises and funny faces” he crowds out the market for serious journalism. Real life is never as simple as saying “person X is bad, they should not be bad.” Or more specifically, in a world of Fox and Friends, CNN can claim to be the best political news-team (or the tallest midget).

          • Thwimm and hosertohoosier: You’re both wrong, and here’s why:

            In a functioning democracy with a functioning media, there would be room both for The Daily Show and serious, independent journalism. There currently is a growing arena of alternative journalism, mostly internet-based, which is doing real reporting, and their influence and audience are growing. Traditional media (mostly TV-based) is in the decline. People are gradually beginning to discern the difference between infotainment and real news. Jon Stewart is an entertainer, but he also happens to be one of the most articulate and incisive people on television, and there’s no good reason why he shouldn’t use his intelligence for the sake of what he believes in.

            It isn’t on Jon Stewart to provide anybody with “a positive vision for what the media should be like,” as you say. But he does so anyway, by implication, four nights a week. If you don’t see this then I don’t know what to tell you, except watch the show a bit more, and think a bit about what parody and satire (Colbert is the former, Stewart the latter, and Stewart’s show is a bit of both) are actually for.

            And this talk of trivialization is also pure bunk. For one thing, it’s totally subjective. If the Daily Show doesn’t cut deep enough for you when it critiques CNBC, well, that’s your problem, not Stewart’s. I recommend to you Democracy Now – some of the best contemporary journalism going.

            The fallacy is yet another example of the paternalistic belief that we need more champions and leaders to tell us how to fix all of the problems. Jon Stewart isn’t crowding out serious news, and he isn’t so simplistic to say that “person X is bad.” If you recall, the critique was systemic – Cramer basically elected to become the whipping boy when he took special exception to a brief mention of his show by Stewart, and then made matters worse for himself by appearing on The Daily Show. He’s a shallow loudmouth and he got the rebuke he deserved.

            I applaud Stewart for riding the line he does – smart political commentary with a hearty helping of goofy humor. He’s good at it, and he even manages to pull of some serious material too. For those who want more, or wish him to be something he isn’t (either a crusader for justice or a serious commentator), well, that says much more about you than it does about Jon Stewart.

          • Very, very well said. Speaking of Carlin U-tube his monolouge “Carlin nails it” and “saving the planet” absolutely priceless.

  11. It wasn’t as earth-shattering as his calling out of Crossfire or Colbert’s tour-de-force at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner but it did once again state that the majority of citizens want the truth and that journalists should be seakers of truth – not cheerleaders, not repeaters of talking points, not spouters of their own opinion in the guise of facts, not name-droppers and not gossip mongers.

    Would that a Canadian “Jon Stewart” could call out the Canadian political media class (most of Maclean’s not included in this indictment) for that exact behaviour these past few years.

    • “Would that a Canadian “Jon Stewart” could call out the Canadian political media class (most of Maclean’s not included in this indictment) for that exact behaviour these past few years.”

      Stewart’s point was that a fellow commentator on the news was being too much like Jon Stewart, ie. a comedian, in his presentation of the news. In calling for “more Jon Stewarts” you have managed to arrive at the opposite conclusion of the guy you are cheering on.

      Indeed, might we ask whether our newsmen actually can give tough interviews like the one Stewart gave Cramer? What politician would ever submit to such an interview, other than one guaranteed to lose (say Huckabee’s appearances on Colbert), or already disgraced (eg. Richard Nixon with Frost, and even then Nixon demanded a large sum of money). The kind of interview Jon Stewart just had was only possible because Jim Cramer is a fellow tv personality who benefits (or who could conceivably benefit) from the publicity of the over-hyped event. Even then, knowing that he was going to get creamed, his stance throughout the whole thing was mea culpa. Jim Cramer couldn’t have argued with Stewart – he couldn’t call up clips, and he wasn’t asking the questions or framing the debate – if he wanted to.

  12. [i]If you want a truly critical media, we need less Jon Stewart, less Limbaugh, less O’Reilly, and more Jim Lehrer, more Walter Cronkite and more Mansbridge.[/i]

    Amen brother! I absolutely agree with this 100%.

    With the interview itself, I think we all need to take a step back and actually look at how this happened. I knew from the get-go that this was going to be beyond anti-climatic as soon as the media started jumping all over it. Jon Stewart was doing nothing different last week when he made some cracks at CNBC. If I am not mistaken, Jim Cramer was then on the Today Show where Meredith Vierra pointedly said, “so you are in a sort of war of words with Jon Stewart.” Cramer’s response was normal, then again he was asked on Morning Joe about it, where the guy I really dislike (can’t remember his name) started mocking Stewart.

    This was never really a ‘War of Words’ or a TV personality rabble; until the media decided it was juicy tabloid fodder that they wanted to pass as real news. When USA Today has cover space dedicated to this so called feud, you know we are in a world of hurt in terms of what actual journalism is. Which, to that extent, Stewart has a point.

    Bringing it full circle, how could this be anything other than unspectacular. It was media-manufactured tripe that both personalities decided to capitalize on when they both realized the attention it was getting. Nothing more, nothing less.

  13. “The interview ends abruptly. Maybe they’ll show more of it in another episode, maybe not (it was apparently very long and had to be edited down, hence the awkward cuts), but what we got of it was pretty tame”.

    Watch the unedited interview at

  14. The unedited interview also contains Stewart putting significantly more emphasis on how this whole thing started as being against CNBC as a whole, and if any one person, Santelli for his “losers” comment.

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