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Nov. 8, 2004

Uproarious fake news, in real time

by Alex Mazerov, Page Editor
As millions of tense Americans were glued to their TV sets on election night watching drawn-out voting returns, Comedy Central was all laughs as "The Daily Show" took to the airwaves with its live special, "Election Night 2004: Prelude to a Recount." Jon Stewart and his talented band of "correspondents" brought some much-needed sanity and humor to the evening with their brilliant political and media satire.

Stewart perhaps summed up all the 2004 election hype best when he said, "[This is] the closest election that we've seen in…about four years. It's pretty much the same thing as last time."

"Correspondent" Ed Helms spoofed the steadfast and hardnosed image of the president that the Bush-Cheney campaign worked so hard to present. Helms said, "The president is thrilled he will be leading the country for the next four years." Stewart then reminded Helms that the official vote numbers had not yet been reported. "Numbers?" Helms responded, rolling his eyes. "Jon, this is not a man who's going to let the numbers stand in the way of moving America forward. That's a pre-9/11 mindset. The paradigm has shifted. Waiting for 'official' results is dangerous, a sign of weakness. The president has taken decisive, preemptive electoral action. Whether you agree with him or not, whether you think it's the right thing to do or not, he is not moving."

The show's sardonic tone was mixed with actual election returns. "Those are the results that are coming from our, uh, Instapoll Center," Stewart offered, shrugging his shoulders. After projecting John Kerry as the winner of the Garden State, Stewart said, "So that's New Jersey. You know, New Jersey is a state that, somehow, turned its governor gay. I don't know how that happened." Stewart also mentioned some more obscure states. "I want to tell you how Rhode Island voted because…who else will?" he said.

"The Daily Show" later lampooned the major networks' clichéd arsenal of confusing visual political fanfare. "Correspondent" Rob Corddry proclaimed, "Jon, this evening, I have at my disposal every conceivable type of map or visual representation of our divided electorate. I've got the electoral map. I've got the 'weighted' electoral map (i.e. a map of the fattest voters) and a topographical map. Um, not sure how that one's going to come into play, but as you can see, the Rockies are, uh…bumpy." Corddry then presented his United States treasure map rumored to be from "Blackbeard himself."

The evening's biggest laugh went to "correspondent" Samantha Bee and her exit polling... of people coming out of public toilets and adult video booths and other unsuspecting Manhattan street-goers. "Did you vote today with the president or with the terrorists?" she asked one voter. And of an eccentric Kerry supporter, she asked, "But if you were on you're medication, who would you have voted for?"

Towards the end of the program, Stephen Colbert weighed in on the immense legal mêlée both presidential campaigns geared up for and the armies of attorneys both deployed to swing states. "With all of America's lawyers in battleground states waiting to, well... battle," he said, "how will the people who spill McDonald's coffee on themselves or find that the dry cleaner ruined their coat file their lawsuits?"

Unfortunately, "Prelude to a Recount" ended too early for Stewart to declare a winner in the presidential contest, but President Bush's later surprisingly decisive victory was a good omen for "The Daily Show." Just as Bush's first term did, the next four years of Dubya's reign as commander-in-chief should provide Stewart and his gang a steady stream of political fodder.

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  • Rayco on November 9, 2004
    I heart Jon Stewart...after watching the real news for about two hours too long, the Daily Show's spoof was a great change from the slow ho-hm paced results flooding in on NBC. Even my mother thought it was funny, and she hardly ever enjoys the same television programs as me. Considering what a JOKE this election turned out to be, I found this show to be a suitable representation of reality.
  • anon on November 9, 2004
    after getting depressed for several hours over the increasingly dire straits of the real election results, my entire family was rolling on the ground laughing while watching the daily show. Thanks to Jon Stuart for having the only program on TV worth watching
  • hAter on November 15, 2004
    The show wasn't even that funny. You fail at life. Thou art a demon.
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