Tuned In

Mad Money Vs. Mad Funny

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At what point are Viacom and General Electric going to sit down with someone from The Daily Show and CNBC, respectively, and ask them to stop giving the competition such awesome cross-promotion?

You probably know the chronology: first Jon Stewart aired a scathing takedown of bad financial advice from CNBC, in response to Rick Santelli’s “mortgage losers” rant (and subsequent cancellation of his Daily Show appearance). Then Jim Cramer popped a couple jets of steam out of his ears and said The Daily Show took his remarks out of context. Upon which Stewart and company provided the context, unfortunately for Cramer. 

Cramer continued his counteroffensive, going on sister programs the Today Show and Morning Joe. Upon which, last night, Stewart launched a synergistic Viacom counterstrike, venting about the feud to Dora the Explorer and Lauren from The Hills. And now Cramer has booked an appearance on The Daily Show tomorrow, which should be Must-See-Cable-Feud-TV. 

(Free advice to Cramer, by the way: lighten up. When you get in an argument with a comedian, you both end up looking like clowns, but he’s the only one getting paid to.)

It’s all hilarious, but as the wise Dora suggests, whether Cramer is a lousy stockpicker or a good one isn’t really the point. What really matters is what has always mattered about CNBC: it’s a network about trading, not investing, obsessed to the point of craziness with where the market is minute-by-minute. (The point hardly needs to be made, but Cramer’s show is called Mad Money, for God’s sake. CNBC actually treats “This guy is insane” as a selling point.)

When the result is just Cramer blowing a gasket again, it’s simply amusing (well, unless you took his advice on Bear Sterns seriously). But when the network applies its trader’s mentality to politics and policy, as it is increasingly doing—judging everything through the prism of short-term market numbers—it becomes more ridiculous and less funny. 

That’s the subject of my next column in the print TIME, which I’ll try to post here once I get clearance to do so. In the meantime, watch Jon Stewart. He’s funnier, and there are moving pictures!