It is apropos in this respect that the early court jesters were assigned the role of protecting the king against the chaotic and uncontrolled forces in the universe. The jesters were considered to be qualified for such a role because their foolish strangeness and deviance intimated they were in contact with, and could potentially influence, analogous outlandish phenomena. Paradoxically, even as the funny ones soothe and protect, they also provoke. They go out of their way to conjure up images of threatening, forbidden stuff (variously relating to sex, death, anality, and hypocrisy). But each provocation is bathed in humor and the reassurance that there is nothing to fear from the threatening theme because it is, after all, only one more example of something ridiculous and absurd.
There is something distinctly distasteful about making jokes about mass murder and destruction when they are happening in the here and now, which is what Stewart/Colbert do on a nightly basis. Defenders will argue that if we don't laugh we cry; it's a form of catharsis. . .
Yet these programs also reassure us, subconsciously, that all is well in the world. And there are lines that they will not cross. When it comes to the interviews of 'controversial' figures, ie politicians/mass murderers -- 9 times out of 10 they throw softballs, giggle together, shake hands, and proceed with the commercials.
I have no doubt that dissafected youth will flock to these rallies, but it all seems so...empty.
Snowcrash's line "meaningless, obedient and moderate nothingness" is astute. These men have the potential to create real change. Yet they insist on mediocrity and nihilism.