Jon Stewart took to the Daily Show stage last night with an obvious plan: to confront the claims that he had been going too easy on his friend Anthony Weiner, the congressman who admitted on Monday that he'd tweeted a picture of his congressional pickle to a woman who was not his wife. (Would it have been okay if it was to his wife?)
In his opening bit, Stewart staged a fake press conference (in the same manner as Weiner did), during which he apologized for not covering Weiner's admission and not clearly stating during Monday's show that Weiner was "a liar and that [Stewart] believed his pants to be on fire." But he did say that time was a factor (Weiner's admission came just over an hour before The Daily Show was set to tape) and it was wholly Stewarat's decision to proceed with Monday's show as it was written, with a short acknowledgment of Weiner's press conference. Stewart also reiterated that last week, he'd said he believed Weiner wasn't telling the truth and that the congressman should resign if he did indeed to the deed.
In a bit of "wow, this really is live-to-tape!" proof, Stewart actually sliced open his hand while making a frozen strawberry margarita. The cut reportedly took six stitches to close.
But Stewart still never really went for the jugular and outright buried his buddy, as some viewers—myself included—believed he would, instead letting correspondents John Oliver and Kristen Schaal do most of the talking on all penis-related matters (Schaal's bit, which is embedded below, was particularly hilarious). It raises the question of whether Stewart should be seen as a loyal friend and fake-news comedian or a legit newsman not doing his job. Since taking over hosting duties 12 years ago, Stewart has adeptly blended some of TV's most insightful comedy with honest-to-goodness news editorializing, blurring the definition of his place in journalism. Is he an intelligent comic with a knack for news, or is he a real news personality who delivers the real deal with a punchline?
Stewart had a chance to strengthen his position as well-respected news anchor with the Weiner situation, but he took it out of his own hands by going easy on Weiner, and that's Stewart's prerogative. First and foremost, The Daily Show is entertainment. Becoming a trusted news source sort of fell in Stewart's lap, and at times he seems a bit uncomfortable with that title. To me, this was a step in the direction of reminding everyone that while The Daily Show does take its faux-news seriously, it is still a comedy show and Stewart is still a guy who loves to do old-Jewish-man voices.
Stewart made it clear that Weiner is a friend of his, but perhaps he should have explicitly excused himself from covering the matter in light of his personal relationship with the peter-tweeter. Conflicts of interest in journalism do happen. I can't write articles about Angelina Jolie anymore because of our summer fling in '03. The dick jokes are fine, actually, they're great. But if Stewart had taken his name out of the battle beforehand, I wouldn't have been wondering whether he would or wouldn't roast Weiner and this wouldn't be much of a deal.
I still want Stewart to run for office, though.
That said, even though Stewart was the focus, Kristen Schaal stole last night's show with her editorial on the men-sending-penis-pictures craze.
How do you think Jon Stewart handled the Anthony Weiner situation? Do you want him to be a newsman or a comedian? Would you vote for him if he ran for office?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom