Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity: A Trickster at Work

Department

English

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range

2010-2011

Abstract

"I get my comedy from Fox News, and my news from Comedy Central." Or so said a particularly clever sign at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear held at the end of October, 2010. Many pundits questioned Stewart's sponsorship of the Rally, positing that he was becoming an overt liberal political activist, and as such, "jumped the shark." Others criticized the rally for its lack of political firepower, reacting with an indifferent "meh." I propose to examine the Stewart/Colbert satiric phenomenon as it was represented at this rally, and the reactions to it through both traditional and new media outlets. I will argue that Stewart speaks as a trickster, a "consummate gameplayer," as conceptualized by Jean-François Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thobard in their work Just Gaming. By examining his presentation of the Rally on his Daily Show, the media reaction to it before and after October 31, the post-Rally reaction on social media sites such as Facebook, and Stewart's own analysis of the event during an interview with Rachel Maddow on her msnbc show, I will show that Stewart's goals and rhetorical presentation align him with the tricksters of myth and legend, like the Norse Loki and the Native American Coyote. Like them, Stewart keeps the "game" (in this case, American political speech) going, and as such, is a key figure in American popular culture even when his critics and followers aren't exactly sure what he's doing.

Conference Location

San Antonio, TX



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