Just How Smart Are Jon Stewart's Clap-Happy Fanboys?

You know those people who think they know everything because they watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart?

Maybe they do!

The Pew Research Center recently surveyed viewers of The Daily Show, among some 1,500 subjects, and concluded they were the most knowledgeable audience when it comes to the things the makers of the survey find out about by reading the news the same time Mr. Stewart’s writers do.

When asked to identify public figures who had recently been in the news, Mr. Stewart’s happy clappers answered two out of three questions correctly.

And who’s the villain in this study? Fox News audiences ranked near the bottom, just barely beating morning-news show viewers (thanks, Katie!) and falling behind blog readers.

But how does this statistical factoid square with our anecdotal experience? Do the Daily Show watchers we confront on the street really score that impressive 67 out of 100 when asked to name a few of the people who run their lives?

To find out, we went to visit the crazy people who stand outside waiting to get in to the live taping of Mr. Stewart’s show, and the people waiting outside the Fox News studios even though they can’t get in. (Perhaps we should have known the exercise was unnecessary.)

“That’s ridiculous and totally untrue,” said Angela DiPrisio when confronted with the Pew Research Center’s incontrovertible evidence. But the 52-year-old self-described “Fox friend,” who was visiting the Fox News studios by Rockefeller Center from Colorado on a misty April morning, didn’t do so well in the impromptu quiz offered up by the Observer: she misnamed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as “Roberto” Gonzales. “Oops,” she said.

(That’s OK—George Bush just calls him ‘Fredo’!)

After Ms. DiPrisio we couldn’t find anyone else and gave up.

Most Daily Show viewers who waited outside in the spitting rain for the show’s April 17th taping at 52nd Street and 11th Avenue gave big, comfortable laughs when The Observer informed them of the Pew findings.

“Oh really?” said Dimitri Zakharou, a 19-year-old from Princeton, New Jersey, his eyebrows arching to accommodate a widening smirk. “Not surprising,” he then declared.

But when The Observer asked him to name the House Speaker (Nancy Pelosi), the Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice) and the U.S. Attorney General (Alberto Gonzales), he had to call for back-up: the clear news ringleader of his group was 21-year-old Kate Deadrick.

“Well, see, we’re the committee she goes through,” Mr. Zakharou said. “It’s not the right answer until we approve it.”
Spoken like a card-carrying member of the DNC!

Greer Burkholder, a 38-year-old Manhattanite, duplicated his Fox enemy’s mistake, misnaming Mr. Gonzales “Roberto.” But her friend and fellow Daily Show liner-upper, Anne Yardley, a 39-year-old from San Francisco, corrected her quickly.

“Oh, yeah, right, right,” Ms. Burkholder said.

“We’re still better than those Fox viewers though, right?” she asked, as though she were asking the kind of rhetorical question that make up high-school cheer routines. Her two thumbs were pointed jauntily upwards.

“As long as one of us gets it right, then we don’t look stupid,” said David Kallman, 26, a Manhattanite who was waiting with them.

Brooklynites Julie Owen, 23, and Kate Elgart, 22, could name neither the House Speaker nor the Secretary of State. “No idea,” they answered to both.

So who’s the U.S. Attorney General?

“Colin Powell?” Ms. Elgart guessed.

“Ugh, this is so embarrassing,” Ms. Owen blushed.

Meanwhile, a group of Australians waiting in the line got a perfect score on The Observer’s cursory survey.

They did second-guess their “Condi Rice” answer (a critical factor in this kind of polling!)

“People are changing so quickly every day,” said 32-year-old Brisbane native Sean Gilligan.

“It is Condi!” his friend Siobhan Thakur, 28, protested.

British-born Philip Isaac, who has lived in the States for more than a decade, also answered all the questions correctly.

“Oh god, Gonzales. Is he still [the U.S. Attorney General] today?” he asked knowingly. “I haven’t read the news.” Just How Smart Are Jon Stewart's Clap-Happy Fanboys?