As news junkies we at GlobalPost are huge fans of The Daily Show and its intrepid spawn The Colbert Report.
Why? Because humor and satire are incredibly effective weapons in the ongoing war against stupidity. And that's true no matter your political persuasion or position on any one issue.
Satire is necessary in a healthy and functioning society.
If you cover the world every day like we do, you come across many, many dumb things — with what's happening across planet earth, and with how a lot of it gets covered.
The Daily Show turned fifteen last week.
That's a lot of news to digest for any organization, yet Jon Stewart and his talented writers have done something quite remarkable over the past decade and a half.
They've handled "fake news" with just the right touch — it's provocative, smart, timely and always fun to watch. That's not easy to do night in and night out and it's certainly not easy to do over a long period of time, under constant deadline pressure to be funny.
These news-meets-humor chops were very much on display in the summer of 2009 when the Daily Show and the Colbert Report took on two very serious stories: the Green Revolution in Iran, and the war in Afghanistan.
On background: The Daily Show sent "senior foreign correspondent" Jason Jones and producer Tim Greenberg to Tehran for two weeks, where they got mixed up the country's dramatic protests. Armed with official journalist visas granted by the Iranian government, Jones and Greenberg went of course to tell jokes, but also to poke fun at American conceptions of Iran as "evil."
The Colbert Report, meanwhile, broadcast a week of shows from Saddam Hussein’s former Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, highlighting the fact that America was still at war in Iraq, even though the story had mostly disappeared from the traditional media scene.
Here's what I wrote about these shows at the time, which is even truer today amid the stupidity that's happening right now in Washington, D.C. over the U.S. debt crisis:
These foreign forays produced powerful storytelling that illustrates how intelligence and humor, when mixed with a little ground truth, can add depth to very serious matters. It also demonstrates how fake news is, indisputably, a power on the global media stage. As an added bonus it was yet another funny and scathing attack on the pompous earnestness that typifies much of the mainstream media: You know you're in trouble if you can be so brutally, and effortlessly, parodied.
For more on the past fifteen years, check out this great video slideshow that Business Insider has put together that features Jon Stewart's best moments.
It's definitely worth your waste of time.
Happy birthday, Daily Show. And many more.