Before I start this commentary on the esoteric and mystical differences between "mock" news and "real" news, let me say that for 11 years, "real" news paid my bills, so I am still a fan of it... in a way. But this evening, when faced with the decision between the 6:30pm network news blathering or listening to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on NPR, I didn't hesitate before I switched to the satirical bent of Peter Sagal and his motley crew. (One day, I swear I'm going to be a contestant!)
At this point, I wondered why I was making that switch... and why, overall, ratings were floundering for the somber, information-driven evening broadcasts, while folks like John Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Peter Sagal were soaring in the ratings race, and hailing from number one positions in iPod podcasts and cable shows.
And the answer, as I was listening, was suddenly clear.
It is the Fish n' Flush.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I've decided that the likes of Katie Couric and Brian Williams are not facing declining ratings and advertiser revenue because of the new working hours of dual-income households (causing no one to be home in time for a 6:30pm broadcast anyway); not because of hundred-channel cable boxes fracturing the audience of valued Nielsen eyeballs; not because - as the Republicans would probably have you believe - the decline of moral values leads us away from the somber tales of woe and political misdeeds of our world...
Instead, it's because of things like... the Fish n' Flush.
Let me explain.
As I was listening to NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," I heard news about the Iraq Study Group's report on the war and reaction from Donald Rumsfeld and others, the death of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, the space shuttle launch, and the military coup currently underway in Fiji (or is that over now?)...
But I also heard about Britney Spears being caught sans culottes by the paparazzi (for the second time... oops, she did it again), and the fabulous Fish n' Flush - a brilliant combination of a toilet and fish tank.
You'd never hear about these things from Brian Williams, you know...
Only on such venues as the John Stewart Show, and Wait Wait would there be such a precious combination of up to date news of the day, and, well... humor. That's what is really missing in these 6:30 broadcasts, you know. I think the next generation is looking for people that can not only show you that they are intelligent, but also demonstrate that they think the world is as ridiculous and hysterical as you do. This humorous approach is a necessary release from the stresses of the day's work, so in effect, you've got two birds with one stone: Headlines, with a dose of slapstick. Is the news of Former Secretary of State James Baker's commentary on the Iraq Study Group's official report any less newsworthy coming from comedienne Paula Poundstone than it is from NBC News' White House correspondent David Gregory? (Note: I happen to know that David is a very funny guy, so I hope he doesn't take this as a slam to his humor level. But you get my point.)
So, in sum, I suggest that if newspaper sales continue to flag; if ratings for the 6:30 broadcast news disappoints in the ratings race, let's not blame Katie's short hemlines... Instead, I suggest that Fish n' Flush invest in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.
The stocks would soar.