America: The Audiobook
By Jon Stewart
Published by Time Warner Audiobooks
Performed by Jon Stewart and the Cast of “The Daily Show”
The Good News: This is a very funny and very entertaining book. Fans of Jon Stewart and of The Daily Show over the years will most definitely enjoy it. The Bad News: It could have been a classic. It could have been America’s answer to England’s 1066 and All That. Sadly, while it is good, funny and eminently entertaining, it will never be a classic parody of American history. Why not? I’ll explain.
First of all, some readers may never heard of 1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates. It was written by W.C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and published back in 1930. I first became aware of it when I took a college course on English History and after the first exam, my professor read the answers from the appropriate pages of this book. It is a delightful mixture of half-remembered and mixed up facts blended in with just enough actual history that will ring bells in the minds or anyone who has ever actually studied English History. It’s a lot of fun and I recommend it.
In subject matter, America: The Book: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (and The Audiobook, although I have not actually read the Book I understand there are some differences since the Audiobook is a performance) is quite similar to 1066 and All That except that is involve American History. Mister Stewart does not so much mix up facts, although he does play with that here and there. His real achievement is that he has written what is, beneath all the jokes, a book on Civics that every high school student should be required to read.
There are even occasional side notes from Samantha Bee, giving us the Canadian versions.
So why won’t this be the American 1066? Unfortunately, Jon Stewart and his fellow cast members just could not leave out the profanity. The book sounds more like a night club performance. I realize the cast was cutting loose without the restraints of their network censors, but it demoted what could have been a true classic to a mere best-selling parody. Too bad, but proof-positive that the fallout from an F-Bomb is at least as long-lasting as from an A-Bomb.
However, for all its lack of classic status, this is a very enjoyable book and one anyone with a knowledge of American history and politics coupled with a sense of humor should appreciate.
I am a long-time fan of Jon Stewart and I admit that I despair for America now that we are having a Presidential election without his pithy barbs thrown nightly at every bloviating candidate with speeches deserving to be punctured with extreme prejudice. I sore miss the way he examined and exposed the obvious weaknesses of politicians and I really miss the fact that, unlike most professional TV newspeople these days, he rarely let a question go unanswered. If someone attempted to side step or talk about something else, he just kept asking. I liked that. It made him arguably the best interviewer on all Television. Sad that distinction has to go to a comedian, but maybe that’s why he could get away with being tough.
I so miss his version of the show that I have been toying around with writing a socio-political rant blog of my own. Stay tuned, I might just do that… Then again, I may regain my sanity… (if I ever had it)
So even though this particular book is over a decade old, it remains topical in today’s political cycle even if the issues have shifted. What he and the cast covers in their usual entertaining manner are issues that keep recycling anyway. It’s not an issue this year, just wait a bit… it will be back.
To repeat, while I was saddened that the book could have been truly great it is still very, very good and the performance is fun to listen to.