When Jon Stewart tore into CNBC's business reporting last week on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and CNBC's Mad Money man Jim Cramer sat there hopelessly acknowledging his mistakes, there was one guy who watched it go down having an insider's perspective from both sides of the conversation. As comedian Jeff Kreisler pointed out to me via email over the weekend: "My guess is I'm the only person that even remotely bridges the gap between Cramer and Stewart."
Here's how: For three years, Kreisler wrote a weekly humor column and video blog, "Funny Money," for Cramer's TheStreet.com (and the person who hired Kreisler, he noted wryly, was Aaron Task — the guy shown interviewing Cramer in the video in which Cramer says how easy it is to manipulate the markets). He left that gig in 2008, and wrote last year for Comedy Central's Indecision2008 blog. Kreisler, who has been honored with the Bill Hicks Spirit Award and been received well both here in America and over in Edinburgh, acknowledged that in his time working for Cramer, he "never really had much, or any interaction with Cramer himself. I worked remotely, only popping in to occasionally record a video — yes I've been in that hideous orange studio — though I did ask him to read my book for a blurb. He refused (perhaps because I mention him as a cheater?). That's fine."
Kreisler has a book coming out in May called Get Rich Cheating (Facebook group), and he quickly points out that he talks about Cramer's manipulation of the markets for his own personal gain on page 249! Of course, there is a part of Kreisler who wishes his book could be bought and read now to take advantage of this hubbub — but then again, the book's delay came about because his editors wanted him to expand his satire to all of the other real-life cheaters in sports and entertainment, so perhaps it'll have an even easier sell by May. Here, for example, is a video Kreisler shot in February about Alex Rodriguez fessing up about steroid use:
Kreisler also is part of a NYC-based group called Shoot The Messenger that has put on a weekly live show spoofing TV's morning news/entertainment programs. Anchored by Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead and stand-up Baron Vaughn, they're filming their live shows tonight and tomorrow (March 17-18) at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles for a possible pilot (info).
All of which made Kreisler view the Stewart-Cramer exchange a little differently. As he explained to me via e-mail yesterday:
Back to the "showdown," one of the great subtexts was the continuing blurring of the line between news & entertainment. "Infotainment" as we call it on "Shoot The Messenger." Just the fact that I've written comedy for both Cramer & Stewart shows that there's a (dangerous?) overlap. When the comedy show becomes a trusted source for news and the news network provides entertainment, where does one turn? Hell, throw Rush Limbaugh, Coulter, Bill Maher all into the mix of infotainers/opinionsters, too. Cramer has been a wildly successful speaker on college campuses, drawing huge crowds who want to see his shenanigans and hear how easy it is to make money. You know who else built up a huge following on college campuses? Dane Cook. Plenty of people will criticize both for the substance of their "acts," but guess what? They're both really successful, and you cannot deny their savvy for recognizing their market and exploiting it. Yes, the news should be austere and serious and informative, but it's not, and I'm not sure we can blame Cramer for being a fantastically vibrant example of that. We could just stop listening to him and hope he goes away. Which he won't.
Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.