Stewart on chess: US buying nerds??

by Frederic Friedel
3/22/2015 – Remember our recent article on a clandestine effort to recruit top players from other countries to switch their allegiance to the United States, to help win team championships like the Chess Olympiad? Well, Comedy Central's inimitable Jon Stewart picked up on the New York Times report and did a five minute sketch on chess, one that is simultaneously insulting and funny.

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The Daily Show is an American late-night talk and news satire television program which airs on Comedy Central. The host is Jon Stewart, who started up as a stand-up comedian, but branched into television and took over The Daily Show 1999, making it more strongly focused on politics and the national media. It describes itself as a fake news program and draws its comedy and satire from recent news stories, political figures and media organizations. The Daily Show has won 18 Primetime Emmy Awards.

The show typically opens with a long monologue from Jon Stewart relating to recent headlines and frequently features exchanges with one or more of several correspondents, who adopt absurd or humorously exaggerated takes on current events against Stewart's straight man persona. In Friday night's show they picked up the news that a clandestine effort was under way to recruit top players from other countries to switch their allegiance to the United States – see our report from last week:

The Daily Show – Chess News Roundup

"This week in chess America is making a concerted effort to buy top foreign chess players in an attempt to win next year's Chess Olympiad gold medal, something it has not done in decades" Stewart says. "The United States is buying up nerds! Nerd mercenaries – nerdcenaries." He turns to his "senior correspondent" Trevor Noah, who patiently explains to Stewart what is going on.

Of course the show cannot resist poking fun at the stereotype allegation that chess is boring – but at least with the clever line: "I did not realize how boring chess was until someone else started talking about it." It is hard not to laugh an exchange, towards the end, where a chessboard floats down and the two start a game:

"Because I'm white I'll go first," says Trevor Noah. Jon Stewart does his trademark long baffled look and then replies: "All right, I guess 'cause I'm Jewish I'll go second?!"

Eagle eyed readers have bound to have spotted it already. It is our long held theory that there is a certain malicious advisor who offers his service as a "chess expert" to all TV shows and film productions, and then makes sure that the board is always set up the wrong way. The number of times this occurs cannot be attributed to pure chance.

Magnus Carlsen on the Colbert report

In our blurb spoke of "the inimitable Jon Stewart". That is not strictly accurate. A number of his "senior correspondents" have gone on to make their own shows, in a similar format – most recently John Oliver with Last Week Tonight on HBO. The late-night talk and news satire television program The Colbert Report aired on Comedy Central from October 2005 to December 2014 with a total of 1,447 episodes. The following one is memorable:

Three years ago Magnus Carlsen was invited to the Colbert Report. The show focuses on a fictional anchorman character named Stephen Colbert who is a "well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot." You can read our report on the above segment here. In addition we finally succumb to temptation:

We have long resisted publishing this fairly crude impersonation – but you have probably seen it elsewhere



Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.

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