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Jon Stewart's Harry Potter J.K. Rowling dustup may be proof his kind of comedy doesn't work in 2022

  • In discussing the anti-Semitic tropes in Harry Potter on his The Problem with Jon Stewart podcast, Stewart used "humor to make a broad point about culturally embedded stereotypes about Jewish people," says Abigail Covington. "As Stewart himself eventually said in a response to the uproar, any reasonable person watching the clip would understand the light-hearted nature of his comments. Unfortunately, though, the internet doesn’t reward the reasonable. If, on a slow news day, there is a small story involving a comedian, a controversial figure, and some good old fashioned bigotry that, stripped of its context, could potentially be misinterpreted and go viral, some websites will inevitably run it. And, sure enough, Jon Stewart Accuses J.K. Rowling of Antisemitism in 'Harry Potter', did go viral and people went nuts. Many piled on, joining the chorus of headlines and comments in declaring Rowling an anti-semite. Others accused Stewart of trying to cancel Rowling. Some, recognizing the joke, came to his defense and pointed the finger at the publications. Eventually, all of the mudslinging made Stewart the trending topic on Twitter and forced the comedian to explain his comments. The fact that Stewart felt the need to clarify that what sounded like a joke was, in fact, a joke, also serves as evidence for some parts of the internet’s inability in the post-Trump era to process satire, and in turn, for comedians like Stewart to produce it. Jon Stewart is an incisive and propping comedian who loves to question authority, no matter who is in charge. He prides himself on being an equal opportunity bullsh*t detector, the first person in any room to quietly suggest that perhaps the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. These skills served him well during the Bush years when administration officials went to great lengths to deceive the public about their efforts and intentions in the war on terror. But that same inquisitive spirit and subtle eyebrow raise that made Stewart such an astute critic of post-9/11 politics might not benefit the comedian in today’s very different comedic landscape where righteous indignation is in and skepticism and satire are out. Consider it a consequence of the Trump administration, but when a sizable portion of the population refuses to accept the results of a perfectly fair and free election, there just isn’t much room for the rest of us to question things. Coincidentally, it is Jon Stewart’s own Comedy Central protégé, John Oliver, who has best embraced and represented our culture’s dislike of ambiguity. He's turned the obvious, indignant takedown into a full-blown comedic trend, tailor-made for the internet. Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers also traffic in the takedown and their YouTube videos routinely net millions of views. Meanwhile, Stewart's once familiar brand of satire grows increasingly difficult to pull off."


    TOPICS: Jon Stewart, Apple TV+, The Problem With Jon Stewart, J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter