I don’t watch either The Colbert Report or The Daily Show religiously, but I catch them from time to time. Last night they both happened to be on while I was in the gym, although I was only half paying attention (I was watching an episode of Lost on the ipod). The bits I did catch confirmed this sneaking feeling I’ve had in what I’d seen of each show recently. I think The Colbert Report is funnier. I did a quick search to see if people are actually comparing these shows head to head, and it looks like others agree with me. At the very least, it seems like it’s become popular to compare the two shows.
That’s not to say that The Colbert Report is totally funny and The Daily Show is wholly unfunny, because each has their moments. I think the gist of my problem is that The Daily Show has really transformed as it hit mainstream. As other sites have pointed out, it’s no longer about parodying the news, it’s about parodying politics, specifically conservative politics. For example, I thought Jon Stewart’s interview with Bill Bennett was really good. He did a great job of taking him to task on his stance on homosexuality. However, that’s not what The Daily Show used to be about. And, although the interview was entertaining (I am also entertained by Meet The Press), it wasn’t comedy. He also makes references to the fact that we lack “universal healthcare” and complains about minimum wage as if everyone agrees on those issues (I disagree with him on both). Again – those are great and interesting topics to talk about, but it’s not comedy.
Colbert’s parody of conservative politics is, in my opinion, much funnier. His character is hilarious, and the show is very upfront about being a lampoon of an opinion show (in this case, The O’Reilly Factor). The way he does all of it, in character, allows him to take shots at the same people without coming across as confrontational or self-righteous. Colbert also doesn’t get a laugh by just winking at the audience or doing an awful impression, like Stewart does. It seems like he has to earn his laughs.
Although, maybe that’s the expectation? Maybe The Daily Show isn’t supposed to be the funny one anymore. Maybe that’s why The Colbert Report came into existence. The Daily Show has evolved into more like “the news from the perspective of the liberal everyman” – not taking anything too seriously, and pointing out political hypocracy. There is absolultely a place for that… in fact, it may be just as important as the traditional news. But, I’m finding the balance between news-comedy and political opinion awkward to watch.