Amazon vs. The Daily Show

John Goodman represents Amazon on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

It’s always fun when the Kindle works its way into the public discussion — and Amazon too. Right now Kindle Fire owners can watch a new sitcom starring John Goodman just by going to “Videos” on their Kindle Fire tablets. It’s called Alpha House, and that same show is also available on the web. (For a shortcut, point your web browser to )

The first three episodes are free for anyone, and the whole series is available free to members of Amazon’s “Prime” shipping service. But this all led to a fun conversation that I’d like to stow away in a time capsule. John Goodman appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote this Amazon-only series. And it perfectly captures that moment in time when the world realized: wait, Amazon is producing TV shows?!

Jon Stewart was baffled…

JON STEWART: How does this Amazon thing — I didn’t know Amazon did — did, uh, uh, television shows. Is that a…you click on the site? (Audience laughs) Is that — how… Is that how it happens? Can you use —

JOHN GOODMAN: I don’t know! (They both laugh) I don’t know! I’m selling their product…I’m just a cog in their machine of world domination! I just — as long as they out-point Walmart, I’m cool. No, I uh — there’s a gizmo you buy with Amazon, and then you get free TV with it.

STEWART: Oh this is — so it runs only on the Amazon?

GOODMAN: Yes, as far as I know. (Eyes dart nervously. Audience laughs…)

To watch their whole interview online, you can point your web browser to But what’s really interesting is that John Goodman was wrong! You can also watch Amazon Instant Video on the web (where the first three episodes of his show are already available for free)… The first episode even opens with a funny cameo by Bill Murray!

But then the interview gets into an interesting discussion about how the show is created — and the differences between online and broadcast television.

STEWART: Did they — let me ask you a question. If we go on real TV, we gotta bleep all the **** words out. And that’s the only pleasure of doing television these days, let’s just face it.

GOODMAN: It really is.

STEWART: So here’s how you know if it’s real or not. Do they pay you in Amazon points? If they pay you in Amazon points…

GOODMAN: Who doesn’t get paid in Amazon points?

STEWART: How did they — who was the creator of this program? How did this all…

GOODMAN: Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury

STEWART: (Audience applauds). Tremendous. That’s wonderful.

GOODMAN: He writes these incredible scripts. They’re very funny, and, uh, Jonathan Alter…

STEWART: Oh yeah!

GOODMAN: Yeah, The great political writer.

STEWART: Writer for Newsweek, and he’s written many different books…

GOODMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s a producer, he’s got the political angle on everything, he’s great to have around.

STEWART: That’s awesome. Trudeau is one of those guys, like my heroes, that — growing up and reading Doonesbury and just marvelling at the way he would take these storylines and carry them all the way through with the — you know, the quarterback who’s — working in — all the way through, in Vietnam and everything else. Remarkable guy.

GOODMAN: With the disabled veterans now. It’s an incredible ear. He’s a great writer.

STEWART: Is he on the set? Because I, you always…

GOODMAN: Crossing T’s and dotting I’s!

STEWART: Is he really?!

GOODMAN: Yeah! Yeah… “Well, you left an ‘and’ out of that sentence, John.”

“Hey man, you went to Yale. I don’t argue with that!”

The interview winds down — Goodman says fondly that he went to a state college, and Jon Stewart ends the segment with a burst of enthusiasm. “There you go, brother! John Goodman — never bad in anything.” But maybe because we’re in a unique place in internet history — or because online shopping has become such a phenomenon — they still couldn’t resist making one last joke about Amazon.

STEWART: Alpha House premiers on November 15th, you can watch the first three episodes for free! That’s not a bad deal.


STEWART: And then, uh, you ultimately end up, uh, ordering a power washer! For no apparent reason.

GOODMAN: But they’re damn good power washers!

Jon Stewart Mocks Bookstores

Jon Stewart shouts over The Daily Show logo

A very funny skit just aired on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Returning from a commercial break, Stewart switched to a cultural news story — the demise of Borders bookstores — in a knowing, affectionate segment with a contrary look at writers and book-sellers.

(You can watch video of the six-minute segment at

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JON STEWART: Books! You know them as the thing Amazon tells you “You might be interested in…” when you’re buying DVDs. But did you know books used to be available in what were called… “bookstores”? Well they were…

FOX NEWS: The bookstore chain Borders is going out of business.

CBS NEWS: Borders just could not keep up with 21st century technology and trends.

CBS NEWS: The latest brick-and-mortar victim of a digital age…

JON STEWART: Borders! Now where am I going to return all my guests’ books for store credit?!

For more we turn to resident expert John Hodgman! Now let me ask you, how can — how can the beloved bookstore, an institution, compete with downloading and mail order books?

JOHN HODGMAN: Well, Jon, it’s not going to be easy. People have gotten used to the convenience of having books delivered right to them. If bookstores want to compete, they have to give the customer a better home experience than they can get in their own homes.

JON: So you’re saying re-create…

HODGMAN: Exactly, Jon.

JON: I didn’t finish what I was saying. The — the…

HODGMAN: I wasn’t listening.

Jon Stewart and John Hodgman on the Daily Show

HODGMAN: What I’m talking about is getting rid of all those old-fashioned bookshelves, and replace them — with beautiful, well-appointed downloading pods. Book-lovers simply seal themselves inside, strip down to their underwear, pick up a cold slice of pizza, and start downloading the great works of literature… It’s all the fun and isolation of home, with the inconvenience of a 20-minute car ride.

JON: There’s stuff bookstores can do…

HODGMAN: Uh-huh.

JON: …that the internet can’t!

HODGMAN: Oh, you mean like shelter the homeless?

JON: I’m talking about having authors visit stores!

HODGMAN: Oh, well now we’re just splitting hairs. The reality is, there’s nothing more depressing than seeing some pasty shut-in author bare his soul in front of a half-filled row of folding chairs. Believe me, I know! (Picture of John Hodgman appearing at a Borders bookstore)

Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman at Borders bookstore

JON: So what — what is the alternative to this?

HODGMAN: Well, instead of hosting readings, why not host exciting live writings? Bring the author in, tie him to a desk, and make him write a novel to order. Customers can shout out their own ideas while pelting the writer with $4.00 scones. It’ll be fun! George R. R. Martin not finishing that new “Game of Thrones” book fast enough for you? Well maybe some hot chai latte down his neck will speed him up. (Picture of angry reader dumping latte on the bearded author)

Coffee dumped on George R R Martin at a bookstore (Daily Show)

JON: You know, I’m not sure a lot of authors would agree to that sort of thing.

HODGMAN: Well, Jon, I think you’re underestimating authors’ desire for free chai. And, the occasional human touch.

JON: But see, that brings up an interesting point. What about the human element? Bookstores build a personal relationship with their customers you simply cannot get from a computer. There are, uh, employee interactions, employee recommendations…

HODGMAN: Oh yes, yes. Thank you. Employee picks. Thank you, pudgy neck-beard counter guy, for clueing me in to Philip K. Dick — again. What’s the matter, are you sold out of Confederacy of Dunces this week…? But you do raise a good point, Jon. Bookstores employ a very special class of condescending nerd. These are the types of people who used to work at video stores (before they went under).

JON: Where were they before that?

HODGMAN: Record stores, obviously. It’s been a tough couple of years for condescending nerds. And if bookstores fall, Jon, America will be inundated with a wandering, snarky underclass of unemployable purveyors of useless and arcane esoterica.

JON: I’m not sure I understand.

HODGMAN: No, well you wouldn’t.

JON: You seem to hate bookstore employees.

HODGMAN: Oh, I loathe them, Jon. They shelved my books under “Humor”, Jon! Not “Witticism”, as I asked! I ask you, do I look like Marmaduke to you?

JON: (Laughing stupidly) Marm– Marmaduke is a very big dog. Hee hee hee hee hee! Hee hee! Ahh! Ahh…

HODGMAN: Pathetic. We have to face facts, Jon. The big-box bookstore has passed into history. And that’s something we should embrace and be proud of. By preserving Borders as a popular historical attraction.

JON: Like, uh, colonial Williamsburg?

HODGMAN: Well yeah, exactly! Bring the kids down to Ye Olde Borders Towne! Let them see what it felt like to paw through a clearance bin of Word-a-Day calendars. Or sneak a peek at pornography printed on actual paper! Right there on the giant rack of weird magazines you’ve never heard of. Including my personal favorite, Bookstore Magazine Rack Aficionado magazine.

JON: You know, I think a bookstore preserve might appeal to a — a very small market.

HODGMAN: Well, it can’t be smaller than the market of people who buy books anyway! This is what it’ll be like. (Puts on a colonial hat) “Hey! Gather round, young ‘uns, and come see how we used to sell this here itty bitty book light. Because in the One-nine-eighties, pages didn’t glow, and eyestrain was a sign of wealth!

JON: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be right back.