Cramer talks down Stewart feud

The "Mad Money" host says he idolizes Jon Stewart; too bad he misses the point of "The Daily Show," which he's appearing on Thursday night.

Published March 12, 2009 7:10PM (EDT)

Sadly, when Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart finally meet face-to-face on "The Daily Show" tonight, the two are unlikely to produce the shootout we've all been hoping for.

Stewart himself said as much on his show last night, and now Cramer is throwing water on the fire too. The CNBC star, apparently trying to soften his image, went on “The Martha Stewart Show” this morning and admitted that Stewart has gotten the better of him so far. “My kids only know I have a show ‘cause Jon Stewart’s been skewering me,” the "Mad Money" host said.

Cramer's never hesitated to show emotion before, but on Thursday, he showed a new, vulnerable side. "I’m a little nervous. How bad is it gonna be? Is he gonna kill me?” Cramer said. “You should be nervous,” (Martha) Stewart said. "He’s fast as lightning!”

“I’m not, I’m slow as molasses,” Cramer replied. Considering that the entire conceit of “Mad Money” is that Cramer is manic -- “mad,” if you will -- this new, self-deprecating incarnation of the man seems pretty implausible.

The reason Cramer sounds so wounded? Well, he says, Jon Stewart is a role model for him:

The reason why it's been so hard for me, the attacks, is that early on I patterned my show off of his, which is that you can do an entertainment business show. And then suddenly to be attacked by a guy that's your idol makes it difficult.

I can’t make up my mind whether this is laughable or tragic. The main lesson of "The Daily Show," it seems to me, is that nothing is quite so funny as laughing through our tears.  Stewart’s rise is due, in large part, to his brutal honesty. (See, for example, his well-known interview with prominent Iraq War booster Douglas Feith.) If Cramer really does imagine himself Stewart’s student, then he's missed the point of his idol's work. Just this week, he dismissed the "Daily Show" anchor as a mere “comedian” who hosts “a variety show.”

Moreover, if "The Daily Show" works because it finds entertainment value in setting the record straight, then, as I wrote earlier this week, “Mad Money” functions in precisely the opposite fashion. Cramer himself has said that, for the sake of being entertaining (that is, watchable, rather than cripplingly depressing), he likes to stress positive financial news -- reality be damned.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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