Friday, May 07, 2010

America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction

I recently finished reading the first book from the cast and writers of the Daily Show, America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, and my biggest complaint about it is that it was hard to read without fear I was annoying Siobhan with laughing too often and too hard.

The book is in the form of a high school social studies textbook, and in some ways it actually does get the job done; you're likely to come away from it knowing a few more things than you started with, particularly if you skipped that class. But this also proves to be an ideal framework to cast the same caustic, yet light-hearted and irreverent, humor the show casts on the news, without being just a repetition of the show. They've done an exceptional job of carrying over what's great about the show's humor, while at the same time adapting to the format of the book.

This book dates back to when Stephen Colbert was another correspondent, and like several of the others, he has brief "inset" articles that reflect his particular persona. Samantha Bee's play up her Canadian heritage by telling you how Canada does it, but with a deeply self-effacing, apologetic tone. Ed Helms plays his mercenary, couldn't-care-less persona while he tells you why he'd be the ideal candidate for whatever position of power is under discussion, while Colbert focuses on being scathing, profane, and sanctimonious as he shreds one topic after another.

Chapters cover a complete overview of American government, its history and structure, and how the pieces fit together, as well as the context of foreign and domestic issues. Some of the most cuttingly incisive dialogue concerns the role of the media and lobbyists in the political process, the convenience of the two-party system, and a selection of summaries of how it's not so bad because look how much worse the rest of the world is.

I recommend the book with no reservations whatsoever to anyone who enjoys the Daily Show.

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