The limits of the late-night comedy takedown

Meanwhile, the hosts of these shows seem more than aware of their limitations. “My years of evisceration have embettered nothing,” the former Daily Show host Jon Stewart laments at the end in a clip highlighting that virtually every problem The Daily Show covered in his 16 years as host remains just as bad—if not worse—than ever before. Meanwhile his successor, Noah, has changed the tone and substance of the show and is less likely to engage in the substantive barbs that marked some of Stewart’s best-known segments.

The heir apparent to Stewart’s style, Samantha Bee, whose TBS show Full Frontal debuted earlier this year, does engage in substance at the same level as her former Daily Show colleague did, but it seems unlikely her “eviscerations” would fare much better. Her experience trying to fact-check a group of Trump supporters helps illustrate why, and goes back to the point of how big a role ideology plays in how receptive viewers are to what they see on TV. A correction to anything Trump (or any politician, really) claims is viewed with a partisan lens rather than an objective one. In many cases, a citizen, when presented with a correction to misinformation, doubles down on the misinformation rather than changing his or her beliefs. Thus, it’s no wonder that support for Trump hasn’t wavered in the face of numerous attacks, be they from Oliver, Bee, or anyone else.