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Inside Politics

Express Line dispatch: 'The Daily Show' gets serious

By Liza Kaufman Hogan

"The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, left, poses with Rock the Vote volunteers.

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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- We came expecting a little comic relief from long hours, subzero temperatures and too much junk food. But what comedian Jon Stewart delivered Saturday night was a little more serious.

The occasion was Comedy Central's town hall meeting here, part of the cable network's "2004 Indecision" campaign coverage. Stewart was the moderator.

Turning his rapid-fire wit on a distinguished panel of journalists and politicians Stewart, anchor of "The Daily Show," a mock newscast on Comedy Central, posed such spinach-laden questions as what it means to be an "embedded" campaign reporter.

"What's the difference between embedding and, say, following someone around," Stewart asked.

A conversation about polarizing debates on TV quickly devolved into a polarizing debate, prompting Stewart to walk over to separate the chairs of Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and TIME columnist Joe Klein. "Stop it," he said parentally. "If you guys don't stop it, someone is going to ask you to do a show."

When C-SPAN was applauded as an example of TV media giving time to all sides, Stewart quipped, "There's a difference between a security camera and presenting (the news)."

Stewart had much fun at the expense of his guests. As NBC's Tom Brokaw and former presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun engaged in private conversation on the panel, Stewart told them "get a room."

And when someone noted that Stewart doesn't adhere to the standards he proposes for mainstream media, he said, "Guess what? My colleagues are Carrot Top and Robin Williams."

Lest any of us felt tricked into attending a ponderous panel on journalism, departing guests received the "News Calculus: A Cheat Sheet for Reporters" with tips such as finessing awkward newscast transitions. Tip No. 3: Tragic to Upbeat "Anyway, that's ethnic cleansing for you. Now ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?"

A different type of scoop

It's hard to go to any event in New Hampshire without having a scoop of Ben & Jerry's Primary Berry Graham ice cream handed to you by Rock the Vote, the youth-oriented voter education group.

Dressed as a cow, RTV volunteer Aaron Taylor, 24, said his goal is "getting people off their ass to vote. People forget it's 18 to vote, not 30."

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