The Daily Show on the GSA Scandal
How can we be sure that the controversy over the U.S. General Service Administration’s spending on a 2010 training conference has become a full-blown scandal? Because The Daily Show spent more than nine minutes ridiculing the agency and the meeting. Not even the hubbub over AIG’s 2008 executive retreat, which had such a chilling effect on the meetings industry, got that sort of treatment from the Comedy Central series. (It wasn’t until AIG gave out $218 million in bonuses to its financial services division six months later that Jon Stewart & Co. devoted that sort of time to the insurance giant’s post-bailout spending.)
To be fair, four minutes of the segment on Thursday’s episode was really more about Stewart playing up his good-natured rivalry with Bill O’Reilly, latching on to the Fox News host’s outrage over one particular expense of the GSA conference. Appearing remotely, O’Reilly was subjected to a game-show parody titled “Can You Make Bill O’Reilly Eat a Shrimp for $4?” Stewart presented increasingly ludicrous situations, culminating with one in which O’Reilly would be able to defeat invading aliens whose ship had “a shrimp-shaped exhaust port.” O’Reilly’s response: “Any planet that allows $4 shrimp [is] not worth saving.”
That was all after Stewart did a five-minute monologue on the findings of the GSA Inspector General’s report on the conference, which Stewart called “a boondoggle of epic and ironic proportions,” at The M Resort Spa and Casino near Las Vegas. Here are a few of the comedian’s quips:
–On the particulars of the expenses detailed in the report: “Not only did the government blow almost $1 million of our money in Vegas, they blew it on lame [expletive]! Canteens, clowns and bicycles? You’re in Vegas! … You are a disgrace to corruption.”
–On the fact that the GSA is the agency responsible for government cost-saving policy: “The people holding the conference that wasted a ton of government money are the people in charge of making sure the government doesn’t waste a ton of money.…It’s like the Justice Department selling guns to Mexican drug dealers!”
–A photo of former GSA chief Martha Johnston, ostensibly from yearbooks handed out at the conference, was labeled “Most Likely to Resign Over an Event That Betrays an Almost Comical Misunderstanding of the Agency’s Mission.”
–On commemorative coins given to attendees: “$6,300 of our money [was spent] to make fake money commemorating the weekend they all wasted our money!”
You can watch the full segment below. While all the expletives have been bleeped out, it does contain some racy humor.
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
I’ll admit that the details of the GSA meeting are an easy target for comedy when taken out of context. Three months ago, I would have been laughing right along with Stewart, but my short time here at Smart Meetings has given me an appreciation for the meetings industry that somewhat dampened the humor. It looks like the GSA made some legitimate missteps, but so much of media coverage has questioned the necessity of training conferences in the first place. That should be of concern to meeting planners everywhere, and fighting that perception is going to be hard—a lot harder than finding the humor in the federal government spending money on clowns.