Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Jim Wallis talks to Jon Stewart

Jim Wallis: The Hebrew prophets often use humor, satire, and truth-telling to get their message across, and I feel you do a combination of all three. How conscious are you of this, and are you trying to make social change happen?

Jon Stewart: It may be true that the Hebrew prophets used humor in that regard, to create social change, but it was also used by Borscht Belt social directors. We’ve got a lot more in common with them than the prophets. Everyone here has a lot of respect for activists and an appreciation for what it takes to be an activist. For most of us, writing jokes, playing a little Guitar Hero in the afternoon, and calling it a day seems to be the way to go. Because we’re in the public eye, maybe people project onto us their desires for that type of activism coming from us, but just knowing the process here as I do, our show is maybe the antithesis of activism, and that is a relatively selfish pursuit. The targets we choose, the way we go about it—it’s got more of a personal venting aspect than a socially conscious aspect.
Here's David Waters' take on that:
Stewart is more than a comedian. He’s the Will Rogers of our time, laughing with us as he sharply and satirically mocks the absurdities of politics, media and popular culture. But a prophet? Seems like quite a stretch, at least in the theological sense of the word.[...]

In Stewart’s world of real people and fake news, cause and effect are clearly comical, not theological.[...]

Stewart spends plenty of time exposing the phony and self-serving powers that be, but he told Wallis he doesn’t think people should see what he does as social activism.

Real prophets aren’t venting on their own. “G-d is raging in the prophet’s words,” wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great 20th-Century Jewish theologian.

I don’t think Jon Stewart qualifies as a prophet, but who’s to say G-d doesn’t also send us court jesters?

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