Jon Stewart vs. Stephen Colbert

Jon Stewart

In 1999, Jon Stewart, a comedian with a history of less-than-successful improv and short-lived talk shows introduced the country to The Daily Show.

And it was a hit.

An out-of-the-park, slam-dunk, Hail-Mary-in-overtime success story that's kept us not only laughing, but thinking, ever since.

The show resonated with the public on so many levels, at a time when we needed it most. It made us laugh at ourselves. It made us laugh at our often inexplicable way of running the country, and more importantly, it reminded us that we — those watching and laughing and agreeing and disagreeing and getting righteously indignant at the appropriate times — are the ones who put these leaders into office, and we could take 'em out. He's made an entire generation of X-ers and Y-ers who might not otherwise care about the news care. That's an impressive feat.

Stewart delivers his sharp-as-an-arrow digs with a wit dry enough to put a Shamwow to shame and the spot-on timing of a Swiss-made watch. The pauses. The head-in-the-hands. The sighs. The raised eyebrow. The guy's on his A-game all the time. And the best part? Stewart doesn't just deliver the funny, he helps write the funny.

But it's not all fun and games with Stewart. He welcomes those he's taken shots at to come on and defend themselves (usually without much success). And he's been willing to put himself out there as well. Who could forget his appearance on CNN's Crossfire, hosted by Tucker Carlson?

Carlson: "You're not as funny as you are on your show."

Stewart: "You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show."

Crossfire, meet backfire.

Carlson's show was canceled soon after.

We won't even go into the massacre that CNBC's Mad Money's charlatan and danger to society Jim Cramer endured (rightly so) on March 12th. Wonder how long it will be till Cramer's show keeps company with Carlson's in the TV-land graveyard? Tick tock, Cramer.

I like Colbert too, but his show is more about Colbert than anything else. It's a funny shtick, but in the end, it's a shtick. And shticks don't tend to stick.

Just ask Tucker Carlson.

— Mary Helen Randall

Stephen Colbert

How has The Colbert Report taken hold of two generations? I may be the extreme, but I can't sit through an entire "real" news broadcast. I literally assimilate satire five times faster than fact. I am immersed in pop culture (it's around every corner), so parody is my bread and butter. In other words, Colbert speaks the language of the people. If we don't need to see coverage of a particular story, Colbert will give us a general update on what's up in the world.

Here's why I love the man behind the Colbert mask: He is a veritable master of improvisation, which keeps the pace of the show at a sprint. If Colbert's pundit persona (who leans to the extreme right of politics) is boxed into a logical quandary during an interview, he improvs his way out of it without getting constipation-face from thinking that hard. His writing for the show is Emmy-winning — that's right, he actually contributes to the body of clever material on his show. Colbert is no one's host-puppet. Let's face it: writers are sexy.

I'm not sure how he managed this one: Colbert has made it cool to be patriotic. He does not address the needs of one constituency; he addresses the nation. His studio set sports the flag as its central design and his best-selling book is called I Am America (And So Can You!). I adore Stephen, but not in the saintly, bald, lip-service way. He wouldn't like that.

Stephen has inspired interspecial namesakes. The San Francisco Zoo named a baby bald eagle Stephen Jr. He also boasts an endangered leatherback turtle named Stephanie Colburtle, a trapdoor spider, a Canadian junior league mascot (an eagle), and a Ben & Jerry's flavor named Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream. Any man with his full name on an ice cream carton has more charisma than he can ever use, but Colbert is trying to do just that. He could have jumped one or two charisma points if he had pushed for his middle initial on the carton, but it's hard to argue with success.

And that's The Word.

— Jennifer Gernon

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