Friday, January 14, 2005

3. America (The Book)

by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show

There was a time when I didn’t watch The Daily Show. I thought it was gimmicky. Then, four years ago, I got cable and I haven’t stopped since. I was way excited to learn about the release of America (The Book), especially since it was my mom calling to tell me that Jon Stewart was on C-Span and that, told you so, they do review interesting books there. There is much to love about this book and due to my sheer zeal for all things Jon Stewart combined with the massive amounts of funny found herein, I can do little more than pare my affinity down to three reasons why this is a good read. (Because I don’t think shrieking in delight is a very effective measure, especially through the computer where you can’t hear me and that’s probably a good thing.) So: America (The Book), how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. The layout. Remember those textbooks you had all through elementary, middle, and high school? This is exactly it. A nice hard-backed cover with glossy pages, full color photographs, and chapters denoted by color. Every few pages there is a fun “fact” in a side box, labeled “Were You Aware?” just like all those “Did You Know?” boxes, except, you know, that phrase is “copyrighted.” There are discussion questions and classroom activities at the end of each chapter. There are charts and graphs and a study guide to go along with the table of contents. It’s old-school eighth grade history here and all I want to do is grab a brown paper bag and fold up a cover for it. And write my name on the front cover because there is that “This Book is the Property of:” stamp on the inside and if that isn’t anachronistic hilarity, I don’t know what is. (Do they still do that? I’ll have to ask my little brother. Okay, now I feel old.)

2. Legitimate information. To successfully parody something, you must first have a firm grasp on what that thing actually is. These writers do. From the election process, to the history of our country, to the role the media plays in the political realm, it’s obvious that the writers did their homework before settling down to decimate a system that may not be as good as its touted to be. I think I learned more from this book than I did in my 12th grade AP Government class. Well, maybe that’s a little insulting to my AP Gov’t teacher, but really, why not teach this along with the regular curriculum? A little humor goes a long way in terms of retaining some seriously boring shit. So there are some naked Supreme Court Justices. Add it to your “abstinence training” and kill two birds with one stone. (Although those pictures of Jon might undo all of that, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.)

3. The humor. Oh my God, with the relentless, side-aching, audible guffawing humor. When I say “laugh out loud,” I don’t usually mean it in the literal sense, but this time I could be heard giggling madly. Fans of the show will already be familiar with the type of humor this team delivers, but I was surprised, and quite pleased, to find out how well it transferred to the page. I just don’t know where they get these jokes because they keep coming and coming and they never decline in quality. The Forward is just as funny as the Afterward and all the pages in between hold up under the weight of this comedic ambition. My favorite (p. 41): “While our first president, George Washington, summed up his initially modest expectations for the new job in a Farewell Address entitled I Only Took the Job for the Poontang, the last two centuries have seen the president’s role in government grow tremendously.” To be followed by the footnote: “Poontang, of course, was a colonial delicacy consisting of the fermented juice of the rare poonberry tree.” Poonberry tree! That’s hilarious.

Of course, I might be biased. I have been watching The Daily Show since 2001 and its viewing is a nighttime ritual for me. I don’t know that someone wholly unfamiliar with this brand of humor will love the book as much as I do, but if you haven’t been turned on to the show over the past year, or at least had your curiosity piqued by its leading man, then I doubt you’d have much interest in the book anyway.

Which brings me to one final thing I love: The pictures of Jon Stewart. The front cover and those six in the back? There is no word to describe the sound I made when I discovered them. With the grey hair and the agile eyebrows and the discerning looks? It will have to be sufficient to say that he is cute. Very cute. (Marry me.)

Stars (out of five):
Star Star Star Star Star…oh, like you thought it would get any less.


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