Since when did Bill O’Reilly become so pseudo-celebrated by the left? And since when did Jon Stewart become so worshiped by way of making jokes out of the nightly news?
Actually, those are two fairly rhetoric questions (though the O’Reilly one really does boggle my mind on some small level — I mean, whatever happened to that burning feud with Keith Olbermann?). I have a hard time really reconciling political news anchors, political news channels, screaming men with hairpieces and pressed shirts, any gathering aimed at condescendingly yelling about policies and opinions, and, well, the whole notion of politics as it is today. It’s not that I’m apathetic, per se. It’s just that I’m tired of being berated by people I’ll never meet.
Or, as one of the criminally overlooked great alternative rock bands from the late 1990s, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, once sang, “It’s politics. Politics. Politics. Politicis. And I’m no politician.”
But behold those darn Internet-television savvy blowhards and their foray into live streaming!
First, we had the initial presidential debate of the season this week when Mitt “I love interrupting 70-year-olds” Romney and Barry “Why are we even doing this” Obama squared off in Colorado. The thing was streamed live on YouTube, and unlike the deplorable MTV Video Music Awards, or the nonexistent live stream of the Emmys, the broadcast went off without a hitch (turns out that hearing what the next possible Leader of the Free World has to say about unemployment is a much higher priority for the Internet Television Gods than, say, One Direction not performing “What Makes You Beautiful”).
Why was it so easy? Well, for one, every single respectable news outlet in the universe was carrying it. For instance, after spending the first half-hour with the “official” stream on some government website, I was forced to turn to the New York Times to catch the last hour for reasons I still can’t quite figure out (of all the things in the world, debates.org should be the one destination that works, one would think). And two … well, regardless of whomever you may be supporting this November, it would be virtually impossible to make a reasonable argument against hearing more of whatever these candidates have to say about their approach to possibly leading the United States of America through the next four years. I mean, come on — presidential debates are just as patriotic as watching “Friends.”
But now we have tonight, and what has been dubbed “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,” taking place right down the road at The George Washington University. Don’t know what it is?
“On Saturday night, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly will face off in a ninety-minute mock debate,”The New Yorker‘s Erin Overbey wrote Friday. “The event … sold out within a day; StubHub is offering tickets at prices up to fourteen hundred dollars. … At the Web site TheRumble2012.com, a video boldly declares the event to be ‘why Al Gore invented the Internet.'”
As you’ll see if you click over to either the event’s official site or the New Yorker link from which that writing came, the thing will only be streamed online — no TV broadcast — and if you want to check it out, you’ll have to shell out 5 bucks (or $4.95, but who’s counting?). The biggest head-scratcher? Only HALF of whatever is made from the proceeds will go to charity. So … these guys needed to produce a road-show to pay their electric bills? Weird.
Anyway, one has to wonder about how this all may turn out. It’s garnered a tremendous amount of publicity on its own, so we have to think there will be recaps, analyses, blog posts, Twitter comments and everything of the like in the wake of all this, right? Because as if these social media platforms weren’t already a venue for people to pretend like they are funny and snarky (P.S. — can we stop all the political tweets the next time the Rom-Dog and Barry get together? Pleeeeaaaassse?), now the masses get a chance to comment on at least one funny and snarky person (still can’t quite figure out this universal acceptance of O’Reilly these days — he’s just such a bully) by being … you guessed it … funny and snarky.
And all the while, HALF of whatever money is gathered will be used for the greater good.
In any case, the biggest aspect of this all, in terms of TV Without A TV stuff, is the amount of people who actually fork over the five bucks to watch it (surely, those numbers will trickle out in the coming week, right?). It could essentially pave the way for more of these kinds of “special events” that feature people the masses not only know, but revere. This is a little different than the Louis C.K./Tig Notaro model, for instance, in which C.K. is still somewhat of an unknown figure in the “main” part of the “mainstream” term, and Notaro’s name is only really spoken of in comedy circles (I say as though I actually know what people speak of in comedy circles). Yes, the man behind one of the great tragically funny shows on television today has carved out a nice little niche for him and his DIY ways, but we can all agree that he’s far from the Stewart/O’Reilly portion of the popular culture Venn Diagram, can’t we?
So … we wait to see how this all turns out. For the sake of making such a heavy-headed time in this country (political elections are always just so darn serious) a little bit lighter, I hope this experiment turns out well, and at the end of the day, it’s just nice to see people have a little bit of fun with all this, assuming O’Reilly doesn’t make things awkward by berating either Stewart or anyone in the crowd at some point tonight.
All told, this could be one small step for political commentary, and one giant leap for Internet television mankind.