Design for Comedy

America (The Book)The early word is that there’s a Jon Stewart backlash imminent. The fake news anchor’s recent and notorious Crossfire appearance — and the mention of his name and influence in seemingly every article published anywhere about the character of this year’s electorate — has brought us, as a society, ever closer to the day when the man and his television show are officially played out. That will be a shame, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the unexpected gift that my girlfriend picked up for me over the weekend: my very own copy “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction,” the current Amazon number one bestseller from the producers of The Daily Show.

Remarkably, the book is as nearly as funny as its televised parent, but I do have a quibble with one aspect of it: the layout of this satirical overview of American history — in spite of the inspired decision to emulate the look and feel of a secondary school social studies text — is a drag. Art directed by famed Pentagram partner Paul Scher, it displays very little of the attention to detail and impeccable taste that Scher is known for: the colors are wacky, the typography is far too lightweight in the body and clumsy and unfeeling in the headlines, and the ornamentations are half-hearted. It’s probably a good guess that the majority of the design budget was spent on the manuscript’s many, many joke illustrations — they do the job, but not with much panache. I know, it⁏s probably a bit narrow-minded of me to criticize a satire for its graphic design shortcomings, but I’m just reflecting how high my hopes ran when I heard about the dream team combination of Jon Stewart’s content and Paula Scher’s design. Too bad.


One Comment

  1. I agree with this; the entire book has a very hurried feel. The prose feels like it was carefully copy-edited, but without much thought as to the unified message and feel of the book; it’s like “Jon Stewart’s Big Politix Joke Book” rather than a unified whole. I was also a little suprised to see Pentagram do a less than excellent job on the design. It’s fun, but it has “rush job” all over it.

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