Oct 272004
 
Authors: Sarah Fallik

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

history.

“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

everyone.

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

you?”

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.”

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