Stewart vs. Cramer: It’s Not Funny Anymore

13 Mar

I wonder what Jim Cramer was expecting, exactly, on last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Perhaps a showbiz amnesty, a symbolic handshake and acknowledgment that all is fair in satire, that CNBC were sure good sports, followed by light chatter about the silliness of their heavily promoted “feud,” then a gentle nudge into stormier territory about the failing economy to sate the “issue” palate. But nothing too serious, right, since we’re all in this mess together?

Wrong.

I’m not sure how to describe it except as historic television that will be chronicled and blogged and re-blogged and e-mailed and embedded and linked and water-coolered all over the world today. If you have a working tongue, this is on your mind. If you’ve landed here without my guidance, you have my undying gratitude, because I know I’m competing with every soapbox forum and snark’s nest imaginable rocked by this exchange.

And even then I feel I’m overselling and underselling it simultaneously. Adjectives like “vicious” and “brutal” only serve to cheapen and trivialize. Even a blasé phrase like “torn apart” is overkill. Let’s keep the blood-soaked metaphors out of it, shall we? It was fair. It was necessary. It was a long time coming. Cramer, CNBC’s stocks prognosticator — he of the tornado tongue, sanitarium eyes, and unholy torrent of volcanic bluff, vamping and flapping about a studio in a dance of woof and flail — had the fangs plucked from his mouth, his claws pruned to harmless nubs, his bluster-fed cheeks injected with a crimson hue previously unseen on CNBC: shame.

But there was no “gotcha” snag. No entrapment. What separates Stewart, I think, from his more predatory stepbrothers in real television news — and Jon will insist to the end that he’s not a journalist, even though he often does a more credible job of playing one than the so-called pros — is his rational, even tone. It makes his condemnation of CNBC’s failure as the public’s advisory board in troubled economic times all the more damning. Of the channel’s zoo-like atmosphere of bombast, bells, blowhards, and bullies, Stewart chided, “I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a [bleeping] game.” Cramer seemed so stunned by the host’s sobering stings, their import immense and tenacity relentless, that all he could do was admit that, yes, he was wrong, but he remained a dogged crusader against Wall Street “shenanigans.” (Uh-huh.) He did concede, however, “I should do a better job at it. I’m trying.”

One can only hope that his sleep, at least tonight, is as troubled as ours.

Watch the unedited three-part interview HERE.

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