If you've never watched Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, it is funny. Sometimes it's scathingly funny (conservative columnist Robert Novak is often referred to as the "douchebag of liberty"). Sometimes it's sophomorically funny (during the presidential debates, "political analyst" Ed Helms kept asking other media people when Aerosmith was going to start). But regardless of its target, the show is almost always smartly funny. Now, the team of Daily Show writers has come out with a book as scathing and sophomoric as the show, and it is hilarious.
America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction is made to look like a high school textbook and, as such, is a biting commentary on today's educational system. The joke is already on us before we even open it. The bland, analytical textbook format is immediately recognizable to almost every American and the perfect framework to deliver the book's bitterly funny message. This is American history on nitrous oxide.
The "Study Guide" offers valuable insight to each chapter. "Chapter 1: Democracy Before America. In this chapter you will: Witness thousands of years of history casually dismissed in a few pages ... Read a cuneiform public opinion poll." Each chapter ends with a list of discussion questions and classroom activities. Chapter 4's "Congress: Quagmire of Freedom," includes these questions: "What does 'bicameral' mean? Are any of the girls in your class 'bicameral?'"; "Which would you rather see getting made: sausage or laws?"; "Find out each representative's 'porn name' by adding the name of the largest city in their district to the name of their state flower! (Example: Ben Chandler, D-KY = Frankfort Goldenrod)."
The best satire provides valuable insight and truth in its skewering. This is certainly evident in The Daily Show and in this book. America (The Book) saves its best and most pointed slandering for the news media and its horrible lack of integrity. "24-Hour News Networks: A Schedule Without Rest," a section with a two-page outline written on yellow notebook paper, utterly lampoons CNN, FOX and other cable news channels.
All in all, America (The Book) is a fantastically funny read. Sure, there are jokes that fall a tad flat (a sidebar uses a rather arcane allusion to The Great Gatsby reading, "The Supreme Court was originally titled 'Trimalchio in West Egg'"), some that are a little off-color (the section on China opens with, "By the time you finish reading this sentence, three million more Chinese people will have been born"), and some that are just gross ("Dress the Supreme Court" has nine cutout robes for nine hideously naked justices, and the court itself is described as "18 legs, Four Tits, One Mission"). Ultimately, this is a book that will be required reading in dorm rooms across the country.
The book--like The Daily Show--should come with a caveat or disclaimer, warning readers it is satire. Alas, satire has become a lost art form in this country since many people are too stupid for it and think it is real. This is evidenced by some customer reviews posted on Amazon.com:
"With Stewart finally coming out of the closet as a rabid Republican-hater, I suspect his fan base will be reduced to a lefty monoculture pretty quickly."
"Jon Stewart may be a ... real comedian, but don't view him ... as a professor or educator of American History and American politics ... I just don't believe that American history and politics should be taught with too much infused humors, inaccuracies, misleading facts and erroneous histories ... Nice going, Professor Stewart. Next time, put a big disclaimer on your book that you are no historian."
"This book is trash! It's written in this weird style, the facts are all wrong! (Carter never had a beard all long like that when he was President [but he was Liberal].) It has left wing opinions in it. A history book is not supposed to be biased!"
These are three people you'll never have dinner with, so go out and grab a copy of America (The Book) as soon as possible--if for no other reason than to counteract stupidity.