Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Boo for the Daily Show

A bad call by The Daily Show tonight. I’m speaking of the item on Inder Parmar and his losing battle with Getty Oil.

I love The Daily Show when it’s at its best as a satirical comedy. When it is, it’s an excellent supplement to, and a tonic for, real daily journalism. At other times, however, it makes me think my day job shouldn’t be in jeopardy.

The Parmar item was something where The Daily Show should have left it to the journos.

Parmar is a gas station operator in Queens, New York.

 He got into a legal battle with Getty Oil Ltd. and lost (he claims they jacked up his rent from $3,000 US to $9,000 US per month and cut his commission). According to a Queens Chronicle  story, most gasoline companies in the New York City area set both the rents and require one to buy wholesale gas from them.

Parmar was in violation of his lease by being six months behind in his rent. He won a reprieve in January on what was described as a technicality, buying his gas on the open market and selling it to his customers at a discount (more details in this item from the New Yorker).

The small matter of the rent strike, among other factoids, was overlooked by The Daily Show.

The spokesman for Big Oil (if you can believe the show’s postscript) was Daily Show correspondent Steven Colbert’s eight-year-old daughter.

All told, The Daily Show item on Parmar was unfocused, uninformative and, perhaps worst of all, unfunny.

One “joke” had Colbert accusing Parmar of gouging on snack foods, such as $21 US for some beef and cheese snack. Parmar told him it was two for one dollar. Har, har.

This is a sad, serious story. Parmar has essentially lost both his livelihood and his life savings.

One of the final shots was him holding a jar of the aforementioned snacks. And the point was …?

To me, The Daily Show didn’t know what to do with this story, so as a result, they made a mess.

The raw material for great satire is an event or person whose words or actions trigger outrage. Great satire then takes that material and shapes in an amusing way that can often speak the truth much more effectively than through conventional news forms — and make you laugh your ass off while doing it (and what a good thing that is!)

Stewart can be terrific, and Rick Mercer is also brilliant (the poll about making ex-Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day change his name to Doris Day was a classic!).

To get the satire, you should get the news first. Unfortunately for society, a sizeable proportion, mostly young people, use shows like The Daily Show as a primary source.

If all you know about Iraq is that it’s a big “Mess-O-Potamia,” to quote a Stewart line, that’s not such a good thing.

Wed, August 25 2004 » Main Page, Media