21 December 2007

Not as funny as *The Daily Show* nor as clever as *The Onion*

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book)
Jon Stewart

This book was a gift from one of my die-hard Democrat, old school liberal friends. Like many other coffee table books, it sat unread, gathering dust on my shelf. Something finally possessed me to read it, I read it cover to cover, and now here I am, filing my obligatory report. Suffice it to say that while I found the book mildly amusing, it isn't a keeper.

Sadly, the book is not nearly as funny as The Daily Show itself. Maybe I would have liked this book more if I weren't so spoiled on the really clever, witty, and occasionally brilliant writing of the folks at The Onion. Then there was the realization that, other than being progressive and left-leaning, I don't think I fall into the book's target demographic of young hipsters. Regular jokes about "bling," "mochachina," and "mother f*ckers who love their mother f*ckin' tea" just left me cold. As well, the use of profanity seemed gratuitous and, because it wasn't bleeped out and therefore somehow even more scandalous, just not that funny.

That said, there was one truly exceptional piece of writing in the book--on the introductory page to the chapter on the media, the authors tear the Fourth Estate a new one for their constitutional inability to investigate and report on substantive issues whose open discussion is essential to the health of our democratic republic. Of course, in Monty Python-esque fasion, the next page featured a new, more "acceptable" introduction to the chapter on the media. I got a big kick out of that, in an "oh my god what is happening to my country" sort of way.

As well, the layout of the book, mimicking as it does a public school social studies textbook (down to the stamp inside the front cover for student names), is really well conceived and executed. The sometimes tedious and unfunny text is supplemented by scores of ridiculous timelines, diagrams, textboxes, and quizzes, and it was in these detailed elements that the book redeemed itself. (After all, who doesn't want their own copy of naked Supreme Court justice paper dolls?)

So there you have it: America (The Book Review). There will be a pop quiz on this review next period. Any questions?

(This review was originally written on October 26, 2007.)

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