Love for professional wrestling comes shvitzing out of The Daily Show host like ketchup out of a squeezie bottle. Just be glad it's not his blood.
Jon Stewart is at the crossroads of his career. Witness the feud Stewart's got himself mixed up in, with WWE superstar Seth Rollins -- the worst sort of thug, one with a sense of humor -- who has been talking big about taking over The Daily Show, now that Stewart is leaving.
Last week Rollins infiltrated Stewart's show during the big finish, "The Moment of Zen", which is to fake news what a Tombstone Piledriver is to fake sports. The result was Stewart's appearance on WWE Raw, the best-rated wrestling show in history.
Let's face it, if Stewart took on Rollins for real, he'd be lucky to enjoy the same career trajectory as a head of steer in an abattoir. He'd be cooked like a brisket, and cut like an eight-day-old penis at a Crown Heights briss.
Nonetheless, even the casual observer has to think that this is just one more bit of asphalt on the road to WrestleMania, WWE's flagship event, which this year goes down on March 29 in Santa Clara, Calif. (and is available wherever there is an internet connection).
Just look at the media coverage, the kind of PR that WWE honcho Vince McMahon and his hydra-like wrestling federation live for: Blogs, posts, huzzahs, and all the attendant hoo-ha on the Sports Illustrated website (see? The WWE is legit!) and a meteor shower of tweets and bleats. It won't be long before TMZ and Entertainment Tonight get on their knees, as they do.
This is exactly how the run up to WrestleMania is supposed to go.
Celebrities have always been the coin of the realm for WrestleMania -- Liberace was guest timekeeper at the first WM. Ray Charles, Alice Cooper and Robert Goulet have all appeared in various roles. Pete Rose had his brainpan rattled three years in a row (the last time he had to sneak in dressed like the San Diego Chicken). And does anyone remember Sy Sperling, Clara Peller or Robin Leach?
But they were largely walk-ons and petit fluffery. Donald Trump was once featured in a "Billionaire vs. Billionaire Loser Loses Their Hair Match" against Vince McMahon. Vince lost and had his head shaved (there is nothing that guy won't do to sell a ticket) and Trump walked away unscathed, because for all of his tough-guy blather he is far too precious to let anyone touch him or his carport-shaped head.
But Jon Stewart can "take a bump," as they say.
First, Rollins called him a "wuss and a phony." Then he got really personal, cracking wise about Stewart's movie Rosewater. "All of America didn't show up," he taunted Stewart, showing the kind of brutality and remorseless insensitivity that no fake news presenter who aspires to be a motion-picture director should ever be forced to countenance.
This is how Vince McMahon lures the smarty pants who fawn over The Daily Show over to the dark side of professional wrestling, the kind of un-ironic grunting and smashing of folding chairs that liberal do-gooders generally poo-poo. When it comes to men in tights, this crowd would rather feign enthusiasm for Wagner than cop to being bona fide wrestling fans. Having Jon Stewart in the ring makes it all legit. Like an episode of Crossfire inside of a steel cage.
What's Jon Stewart really up to? Having more fun than Jimmy Fallon, obviously.
But to those in the know, who've experienced the lure of the wrestling ring, who've been inside the "squared circle" where demons dance with angels, he is obviously living his greatest dream -- one born of Saturday mornings watching Roddy Piper bust heads and that lumbering summer squash Hulk Hogan squawk on and on about saying your prayers and eating your vitamins, like Mike Huckabee on steroids.
Stewart is a man whose early career was forged in one of New Jersey's roughest punk rock bars. Which is why I was so surprised -- that after years of watching him take down petty Republican bullies and bloviating Fox News villains (not to mention the actual Mike Huckabee) -- he's chosen to build his in-ring persona mostly of comic chicken posturing. Fifty Shades of Yellow, you might say.
If you saw his star turn on RAW, then you saw him toss a pretty good verbal jab ("How could I make a fool out of a man dressed like a Swat team stripper with Lady Gaga's hair?") only to wheedle and whine ("I'm just gonna wander... this has been a lot of fun... are you going to the wrap party?") and then kick like a girl, a little flick into the nut sack of the brute Seth Rollins, a low down move if ever there was one.
It begs the big question: is Stewart eyeing a heel-turn? A 180-degree buttonhook from his babyface image to a despicable bad guy? One can only imagine the rending of garments across the liberal universe if he were to travel down that primrose path.
For Stewart, this is the first step into the kind of wrestling hubris that never ends well.
I can see it in his eyes, the craven look of a comedian unchained. I've seen it before. Professional wrestling nearly cost Andy Kaufman his life!
Stewart has lived the American Dream, the son of a teacher man who made it all the way from Trenton to the best swivel chair and desk set Comedy Central can buy. And now he sees Seth Rollins as his ticket to WrestleMania, the WWE championship and wrestling immortality.
For the good of the nation, it's time to save Jon Stewart from himself!
He is a fake news hero -- that is to say, a hero of fake news. But this wrestling business is a horse of a different color.
Fake news hurts.
Wrestling really hurts.