When Jon Stewart tore into CNBC's business reporting last week on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and CNBC's Mad Money man Jim Cramer sat there hopelessly acknowledging his mistakes, there was one guy who watched it go down having an insider's perspective from both sides of the conversation. As comedian Jeff Kreisler pointed out to me via email over the weekend: "My guess is I'm the only person that even remotely bridges the gap between Cramer and Stewart."
All of which made Kreisler view the Stewart-Cramer exchange a little differently. As he explained to me via e-mail yesterday:
Back to the "showdown," one of the great subtexts was the continuing blurring of the line between news & entertainment. "Infotainment" as we call it on "Shoot The Messenger." Just the fact that I've written comedy for both Cramer & Stewart shows that there's a (dangerous?) overlap. When the comedy show becomes a trusted source for news and the news network provides entertainment, where does one turn? Hell, throw Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, Bill Maher all into the mix of infotainers/opinionsters, too. Cramer has been a wildly successful speaker on college campuses, drawing huge crowds who want to see his shenanigans and hear how easy it is to make money. You know who else built up a huge following on college campuses? Dane Cook. Plenty of people will criticize both for the substance of their "acts," but guess what? They're both really successful, and you cannot deny their savvy for recognizing their market and exploiting it. Yes, the news should be austere and serious and informative, but it's not, and I'm not sure we can blame Cramer for being a fantastically vibrant example of that. We could just stop listening to him and hope he goes away. Which he won't.