April 02, 2011

Will Rogers = Jon Stewart

An excerpt from the introduction to Will Rogers: A Political Life:

Will Rogers’ Political MindWhen Will Rogers arrived in Manchuria during the winter of 1931, he was one of America’s best-known public figures and the nation’s foremost political commentator and social critic. From just before World War I, through the Jazz Age, Prohibition, the great Depression, and up until his tragic death in 1935, his humor captivated the nation and the world. Millions of Americans looked upon him as one of their most loved and trusted friends, and to many he was regarded as family. His popularity was unbounded. During the last two years of his life he was the top male box-office attraction at the movies, one of the most widely read newspaper columnists, and a radio commentator with an audience of over sixty million. For over a decade, he produced a remarkable outpouring of commentary—666 weekly newspaper columns, 2,817 daily newspaper articles, 69 radio broadcasts, 71 movies, and six books. (His grammar and spelling are reproduced in this book’s quotations.) Every morning in drugstores and barbershops across the nation, men reading their papers glanced up at their friends and asked, “Did you read what Will had to say today?”

Rogers had an amazing entertainment career, but he was much more than just a talented humorist. He was the most incisive political commentator of his era who, beneath his humor, provided his countrymen a critically honest appraisal of American politics and world affairs. Few men touched the American moral and political conscience more deeply than Rogers. His astute observations, his ability to go straight to the heart of the matter and then put that into words that resonated with his listeners, propelled him to a level of influence unequaled in American history. When the witty one-liners are stripped away from Rogers’s message, a sobering and powerful view of his political clout appears. A closer look at whom he met, where he traveled, and the subjects of his writings and speeches reveals not so much a comedian but a true political insider with the power to shape public opinion and ultimately influence public policy.

Unfortunately, history has done a disservice to Will Rogers by frequently painting him in caricature as a hayseed cowboy comedian. Scholars and biographers rarely recognize his impact upon the political scene, discounting his influence because of his humorous routine, bucolic and innocent demeanor, lack of formal education, and Native American heritage. But some truly exceptional men such as Will Durant, George Bernard Shaw, H. L. Mencken, Bernard Baruch, and Carl Sandburg saw through Rogers’s homespun façade, each recognizing his true brilliance and power to influence public opinion and policy, each recognizing Rogers as a savvy commentator, well read, and the possessor of a keen knowledge of human nature. Like others who knew him well, they saw a streak of genius behind his beguiling grin.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Will Rogers State Park and Will Rogers's 130th Birthday.

Below:  "Will Rogers, humorist and actor, at a benefit dinner and dance in Nov. 1934."


dmarks said...

Stewart is just like Rogers, except he's not witty and thinks that it is the height of comedy to say the F-word in prime time TV.

He does, however, have a certain Limbaugh-esque talent for comedy, which preaches to the choir in a rather one-sided, biased, partisan fashion.

Anonymous said...

I loved when Tucker Carlson told Jon Stewart "You're not as funny in real life." (Stewart refused to just be their funny monkey.) Stewart responded that "You're as big a dick on any show as in real life."

This was the only time an official CNN press release referred to someone as "as big a douche as Stewart thinks he is".