America (The AudioBook)
By Jon Stewart (and the Writers of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”)
Published by Time Warner Audiobooks
Performed by various cast members of The Daily Show
There is a book called 1066 and All That by W.C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and it was published back in the ancient world of 1930. It is a well-written parody of English history, although it made a very good point that “History” is not what actually happened, it is what you remember. And this book is filled with only what the average graduate of the British school system probably remembers about English history. Of course the primary goal of the history was not to exalt its authors but to console the readers. In all it’s a fun read and actually far more inclusive than one might think for such a thin book
I first came across 1066 and All That back when I was in college and took a class in English History with a professor who had a sense of humor. After each exam he would read the answers to us straight from this book. He only had time for excerpts, so I had to get a copy for myself. I’m not sure what happened to my first copy, but I bought my current copy while in Great Britain back in 1979.
But I am not reviewing that book this week. Instead, let us discuss Jon Stewart’s America the Book. When I first started listening to this, my first thought was, “Oh wow! An American version of 1066 and All That.” And then, Mister Stewart dropped the “F Bomb.”
I realize that a lot of modern comedians like to use profanity as a part of their act for emphasis and in sometimes just to shock their audience into laughter, but frankly it’s a cheap trick and Jon Stewart is both talented and funny enough that by now he really ought to realize that that he does not need to resort to such sophomoric tricks in order to get a laugh. Instead he seems to be swearing just for the sake of doing so and that is usually the tactic of a second rate entertainer.
And that is a shame because he is most decidedly not second rate, nor is this book, when it isn’t relying on the unnecessary shock value. Sadly, I believe Mister Stewart and his colleagues have underestimated their audience and along with unnecessary profanity, they have inserted other cheap tricks, like nude pictures of the Supreme Court. And all that is totally unnecessary because anyone informed enough to get the jokes in this book, doesn’t need the profanity to get a laugh. There are plenty of third rate comedians in in the “clubs” who do nothing but swear at their audience, so if you think that’s funny you can go check out their acts. The rest of us know our political system is filled with crooks, perverts and assorted other scoundrels, and that if you get the opinions from enough people to cover the political spectrum you will soon find those description apply to every politician.
Cheap tricks aside, the book is both funny and informative with just the right mix of truth and distortion to make it a truly funny volume. Mister Stewart, I know you won’t be reading this, but this could have been a classic – “all the American history you can remember”, but instead it’s just going to be another discount bin remainder, all because you couldn’t resist the cheap shots while also delivering a quality performance.
Well, I think I have already covered that above. The book is mostly performed in the same manner as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and with the same cast, or at least the cast as it was in 2004. So while Jon Stewart is doing most of the narration, playing straight man (mostly) to the comedians who call themselves our leaders, the other members of the cast have their signature vignettes as well. Aside from my complaints about, the performances are mostly good if sometimes overdone, but maybe that’s just me. I never did need my comedy delivered via sledge hammer,
Still if you like the TV show, you should also like this audio book. It’s just like the show, only historical and without the pictures.