The Interplay of Stylization and Genre in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Cala Ann Zubair

Georgetown University, United States of America


The Interplay of Stylization and Genre in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Originating from Bakhtin (1981), stylization is characterized as multi-voiced utterances in which the speaker challenges the set of discourses voiced by means of conscious use of style. Coupland (2001) has elaborated on stylization in a study on dialect stylization in radio talk, where specific phonological and discourse features are shown to be a metacommunicative mode that draws attention to its own conscious deployment of stylized versions of registers expected in particular genres. This self-attentiveness of stylization can serve as a means of parody and deauthentication in some cases mixing genres to create a hybridity which becomes a new forum for a certain type of discourse or opinion. In the present study, I consider both stylization and genre, considering how stylization creates a hybridized genre in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a nightly news/comedy show focusing on politics. Specifically, I analyze how stylized linguistic and extralinguistic elements, as well as the hybridized genres stylization engenders, work to convey humorous social commentary in a way previously unrealized in news casting.

First, I uncover elements of stylization in Stewart’s speech that serve as a way for him to create doubt concerning the political viewpoints he is voicing. I look specifically at a skit Stewart performs concerning Donald Rumsfeld’s response to public concern regarding the Iraq War. I consider the use of such features as referring terms (‘Donny’ vs. ‘Rumsfeld’) and variables considered casual, for example ‘in vs. ing (I was only lyin’) and doncha vs. don’t you, as in the following excerpt from Stewart’s version of Rumsfeld’s speech:

Stewart: Don-don-don-doncha see? (audience laughter) Doncha get it? (audience laughter) I was only lyin’ (laughter) for my own good.’

Stewart’s informal speech contrasts markedly with the formal contextual norms of news broadcasts, and is both a device for humor and a means of stylization such that Stewart’s criticism of Rumsfeld becomes apparent simply by the way Stewart speaks.

To consider more in depth how the show becomes a hybrid genre of comedy, commentary, and news through stylization, I turn to frameworks of genre with the idea that the norms of a text and the misuse of these norms are important for the study of style and stylization. In addition to Stewart’s speech, I focus attention on extralinguistic means in which The Daily Show models itself after other news shows; the opening credits, the presence of an anchor desk with notes and pen, graphics to accompany the newscaster, and paper shuffling. I note that these features associated with mainstream news casting also contribute to the comic effect of the show in that they are highly stylized. This method of creating humor through stylizing news casting as well as through speech stylization is how The Daily Show creates a hybrid genre of news, commentary, and comedy.

This hybrid genre is a new space in the news media for simultaneous reporting of the news and social evaluation of the political issues Stewart reports on.

Session: Paper session
Television 3
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 10