Jon Stewart and Brian Williams: 'Just switch jobs'

Jon Stewart addresses the Brian Williams scandal on his show on 9 February 2015

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As Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, announces he will step down later this year, thousands of people on social media have offered helpful suggestions to revitalise his programme.

News anchor Brian Williams is off the air for six months for making things up. Jon Stewart, a funny man with a serious side, is looking for a change after 16 years at the helm of The Daily Show. These are two entirely separate stories, but on social media they blended quickly into one theme with many proposing an elegant solution to both problems - just switch jobs.

Both men made the news around the same time. On Monday, NBC announced that Williams would be suspended for six months without pay. The long-serving news anchor had admitted to "misremembering" his involvement in the downing of a US helicopter during the Iraq War in 2003, and giving a misleading account of coming under fire. The same day, comedian and Daily Show host Jon Stewart surprised his studio audience, saying he was moving off the satirical show.

"When God closes a door he opens a window, right?" said one Twitter user, echoing many others. "Maybe #BrianWilliams should take over for Jon Stewart on the @TheDailyShow?"

The jokes of social media are, in fact, now leading to serious debate. New York Times reporter Lydia Polgreen and others see some validity to the swap. "The funny thing about the joke that Jon Stewart is replacing Brian Williams is that it's actually a good idea," she said.

Jon Stewart interviews US President Barrack Obama in 2010 Jon Stewart is sometimes seen as a newsman, interviewing world leaders like US President Barack Obama
Amy Poehler and Brian Williams prepare for skit on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update Brian Williams has frequently appeared on NBC's entertainment programmes including Saturday Night Live
NBC News anchor Brian Williams (left) is interviewed by Daily Show host Jon Stewart in 2008 Brian Williams and Jon Stewart are good friends

At the heart of this conversation is the blurring between news and entertainment. Stewart has long been seen as more than just a comedian. Many young people get their news primarily from Stewart - not traditional newscasters like Williams - and Stewart has long championed highbrow causes such as greater civility in politics. In 2009, Time Magazine commissioned a poll that found 44% of percent of Americans thought Stewart was the country's most trusted news personality. Long before his current truth troubles, Williams claimed the second spot with 29%. And sometimes - most recently with the Eric Garner case and Charlie Hebdo killings - Stewart has dropped his comedy routine altogether in favour of sober commentary.

On the flip side, Williams has always been attracted to the showbiz side of the news. He has been a frequent guest on late night talk shows and appeared on Saturday Night Live, mugging for the camera during Weekend Update skits. He is the star of viral videos where he raps and sings "slow jams". Williams was reportedly even interested in taking over for Jay Leno when NBC was looking to replace the Tonight Show host.

John Stewart

Many commentators have said that demands on Williams to be more marketable and entertaining may have contributed to his current troubles. Stewart made a similar point when he lampooned Williams - a personal friend - on his show on Monday. During the bit, Stewart joked that Williams had "infotainment confusion syndrome", and it is a diagnosis that most of America shares.

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