Stewart’s elevation to near-iconic status says more about those doing the elevating than about the comedian himself. His “bravery” and much-vaunted grasp of political nuance consists mostly of his embrace of every reflexive assumption shared by every litmus-tested liberal holding forth at every chic Manhattan dinner party.
It's a long article, which includes a lot of funny stuff from the show, but let me just pull out this argument:
There’s no more striking example of how big a part ideology plays in the mainstream media’s taste in comedy than its about-face on Stewart’s fellow comedian Dennis Miller. Making his bones as one of Chevy Chase’s successors behind the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor desk, Miller was long a media darling, praised like Stewart for inventiveness and daring, especially when he became host of his long-running HBO show, Dennis Miller Live. As the New York Times’s Caryn James wrote in 1996, Miller is “as scabrous and funny a political satirist as anyone around,” given to “irreverent comments on the news.”
That’s when Miller was a man of the Left. Then, after September 11, in a metamorphosis both startling and brave, given the world in which he made his living, Miller emerged as an outspoken defender of Bush’s foreign policy. Instantly, he became the skunk at the media party. In 2004, hosting a new show on CNBC, he found himself dismissed by the very same Caryn James as one of “the stand-up comics turned pontificating policy wonks.” To her colleague Rich, he was simply “formerly funny.”
Too true! But I will say something in the media's defense here. Stewart's comic persona is lovable. Miller always had a nasty edge. Both men seem to think you're stupid if you don't agree with them -- which makes the audience want to laugh along to prove they're smart -- but Miller dares you to get pissed at him, and Stewart seems to be begging us to still like him. And it works. I still like Stewart and watch every episode of the show. I even laugh when things I believe are mocked. There's enough gentleness to the satire that people who don't agree can watch. And it's hard to say that about Miller.