Never before has a textbook been so distasteful.
With foul language, unsettling images and an overall politically
incorrect nature, Jon Stewart’s new book, “America (the book),”
should come equipped with a “likely to offend” warning sign.
Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and the
show’s writers have successfully integrated their characteristic
satirical humor into the literary world. For those unfamiliar with
the Comedy Central phenomenon, “The Daily Show” is a satirical
newscast that uses clips from real news as a foundation to ridicule
American politics. “America (the book)” offers an insightful guide
to American democratic tradition the Jon Stewart way.
Much like “The Daily Show,” “America (the book)” weaves
absurdity through a professional structure to poke fun at American
democratic tradition. Stewart manages to fill every inch of his
228-page, nine-chapter textbook with laugh-out-loud humor about the
ironies of the American political structure and American
“I can’t imagine what it takes to do one that’s historically
accurate, if it took this much work to fake one, ” Stewart said in
an interview in the Olympian, a newspaper in Thurston, Wash.
In those 228 pages, Stewart also touches on many taboo subjects
while blatantly exploiting others for cheap laughs.
For four weeks, “America (the book)” has been at No. 1 on the
New York Times bestseller list. While it simultaneously offers both
insight and humor, “America (the book)” may not be suitable for
Those easily offended by a comparison of our democratic system
to a woman’s menstrual cycle in that they are both “a highly
regular occurrence that, while reassuring, is a bit of a nuisance”
may want to stay away from this one.
For those that can stomach Stewart’s crude, raw criticisms,
“America (the book)” begins its journey through American history
with a foreword by Thomas Jefferson.
Through the course of his mock textbook, Stewart thoroughly
traces the history of American democracy, including a Freudian-like
description of the ages of democracy beginning in infancy and
ending in old age. From the role of congress to a description of
the election process, “America (the book)” details all facets of
the American political system’s structure.
The layout of “America (the book)” imitates that of a high
school textbook, complete with discussion questions and classroom
activities at each chapter’s end. One discussion question states,
“How many of the nine Supreme Court Justices can you name? How many
members of the Brady Bunch can you name? What does that say about
Peppered throughout each chapter are side notes titled, “Were
You Aware?” offering tidbits of comic “facts.” Also included in
each chapter are essays from other “Daily Show” correspondents Ed
Helms and Samantha Bee.
For readers who decide to embark upon the adventure Stewart
offers, it may be best to read “America (the book)” with a group of
people, if for no other reason than to avoid the appearance of
madness when alone, laughing hysterically in a public area.
In short, the full hilarity of “America (the book)” cannot be
conveyed; it simply must be read. “America (the book)” will not
only hold your attention from start to completion, but when you
reach the end of the book, you will be awarded with a certificate
of completion that states “_______ has hereby completed America
(the book) and is thus fully qualified to practice, participate in,
or found a democracy.”