How far can humor go? This question is often asked regarding ribald, lewd, or obscene humor. In these cases, critics often ask whether humor has gone far enough.
Critics and questioners ask whether what the comedian presents as humor has crossed the line into the offensive and revolting. How far has a particular bit humor gone to the bottom of the barrel and how do we know if it has reached the bottom.
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How far can humor go? That same question may be asked for Jon Stewart’s 2004 humor book America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction. However, instead of asking how the degenerate the humor is, after reading Stewart’s book, we are forced to ask how enlightening humor can be?
Can humor be a tool to scrutinize? To question? To criticize? The likelihood of these possibilities are astonishing, especially when you consider that Stewart’s book is about America and its government and political system.
Jon Stewart is the host of the popular comedy program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show is a satire news program, complete with the familiar news program introduction, faux field reporters and even interviews with current newsmakers. Instead of glorifying news programs, The Daily Show takes pride in crucifying it and the political culture it inculcates.
The late-night show is notorious for its no holds barred treatment of politicians and pundits from all sides of the political spectrum. The show prides itself as an equal opportunity offender as it makes fun of all political entities from all sides. This has resulted in great popularity for the show as well as for its host, even generating a spin off show from one of its faux pundits.
That said, there are many parallels to be drawn between the Daily Show and America (The Book). While The Daily Show pretends to be a nightly news program, America (The Book) pretends to be a high school social studies textbook. In this regard, America (The Book) is successful as it really does look and feel like a social studies textbook. Its content and outline matches that of common high school textbooks.
Its layout is also befitting that of a high school textbook, complete with margin notes, sidebars, interviews with “noted” individuals and numerous illustrations and figures. It is even complete with end of chapter questions and classroom activities.
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