Pssst! Do you want to know what secret weapon Jon Stewart used to claim Emmy victory for "The Daily Show" as best variety series for an unprecedented eighth time in a row? Roland Martin's ascot. Yes, the neckwear donned by CNN pundit Roland Martin.
That was the focus of the episode of "The Daily Show" submitted to Emmy judges: No. 15065, telecast on May 10, 2010. In it, Stewart strenuously ridicules Martin's ascot. The rest of the segment submission is equally lame stuff: "Senior British Person" John Oliver rants about results of the British election, Jon Stewart rants about recent shenanigans on Wall Street and all viewers doze off while Stewart fawns over historian Jack Rakove as they coo over Rakove's new book about America's founding fathers titled "Revolutionaries."
That's it. That is what so wowed Emmy voters to choose "The Daily Show" over "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" (which submitted his historic, heart-tugging farewell episode), "Saturday Night Live" (the Betty White spectacular) and "The Colbert Report" (Stephen Colbert gets a visit via satellite from Barack Obama while Colbert entertains troops in Iraq).
Obviously, if such a tepid "Daily Show" entry can beat all that, then it's destined to continue winning its Emmy category … forever.
Why does "The Daily Show" keep winning? My theory: Stewart is so good at whipping up a lynch mob among TV viewers that Emmy judges (read shallow Hollywooders) can't resist his cry to arms even if it's ridiculous — or, worse, not funny. Many of his shows are brilliant and they deserve their accolades. But at his worst, his performance can be a mix of pop-eyed evangelist and playground bully (sometimes even whining "Nyah, nyah, nyah!" like a sneering child while wagging an angry finger at the screen) as he demonizes the targets of his rage. Granted, that often makes for great TV worthy of Emmys and I think he's deserved all the ones he's won to date, but, sorry, not this time. Stewart should give this Emmy back and Emmy judges should feel ashamed of themselves for being so easily recruited into a lynch mob to string up — not political monsters or economic threats — but Roland Martin's ascot. Heck, Stewart was so uninterested in receiving this Emmy that he didn't even bother to show up to accept it.
Note: There is a false rumor circulating the web claiming that "Daily Show" won thanks to an episode in which Stewart skewers Glenn Beck. Not true. That rumor is probably the result of this post at "The Daily Show" website referring to the show's "nomination reel." That was the DVD sent to all 14,000 academy members by Comedy Central months ago as part of the network's awards campaign. I have the actual DVDs that were weighed by the 200 judges in this variety category in recent weeks and can attest that they saw the ascot episode.
Photo: Comedy Central