Ahead of D.C. rally, Stewart's influence blooms

Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:33pm EDT
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By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's election led many political pundits to predict the popularity of American satirist Jon Stewart would wane. After all, mocking Republicans was his bread and butter.

But two years later with the nation just days away from an election expected to shift the balance of power in Washington, Stewart and his Comedy Central stable mate Stephen Colbert are growing ever more successful.

On Saturday, the pair mount their most audacious stunt -- rallies on Washington's National Mall. Stewart's is a "Rally to Restore Sanity," while Colbert, whose show mocks conservative punditry, holds a rival "March to Keep Fear Alive."

Organizers haven't disclosed what exactly the rallies will be, but they will no doubt build on Stewart's huge following for "The Daily Show," which typically features the comedian commenting on the day's news in a faux anchor format and conducting interviews with top newsmakers.

"We all thought he would have less fun after (President George W.) Bush left office but that's not been the case," said Michael Musto, a culture writer at New York's Village Voice.

"There are still plenty of Republicans to poke fun at, and Obama's ratings are so low that he can now poke fun at Obama and the Democrats too," said Musto. "It's twice as much fun."

Experts say the explosion of Internet news, opinion and blogs and the 24-hour cable television news cycle have created a cacophony of shouting pundits. That, they say, allows Stewart to poke fun at overheated rhetoric on both sides.

Media and Society Professor Richard Wald of New York's Columbia University said Stewart is evocative of Will Rogers, known for such cutting satire as: "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat."   Continued...