There were laughs, but in the larger sense there was nothing funny about CNBC stock picker Jim Cramer's widely anticipated appearance on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Thursday night.
In response to aggressive questioning by Stewart, Cramer said that he was "chastised" and wished that the financial news network had done more to expose Wall Street corruption.
Stewart repeatedly blasted the channel for cheerleading Wall Street in the run-up to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. He questioned whether it was "selling snake oil as vitamin tonic" in a way that was "disingenuous at best and criminal at worse."
"Absolutely, we could do better," Cramer said. "There are shenanigans, and we should call them out. Everyone should. I should do a better job at it. I'm trying."
The interview capped a week-long series of comic jabs at CNBC, with Stewart zeroing in on Cramer's call for investors to buy and hold Bear Stearns stock in the weeks before it collapsed. Cramer, at the time, said that he had been taken out of context, and dismissed Stewart as a mere comedian who "runs a variety show."
Stewart was one of many people who challenged CNBC following a fiery Feb. 19 attack on President Obama's stimulus package by On-Air Editor Rick Santelli. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs chided Santelli, who referred to people who can't pay their mortgages as "losers."
"I think it was bad, what he said," Cramer told Stewart. "It's a terrible thing to be foreclosed on. They're not losers. They're fighters."
Stewart said that he was troubled by "the gap between what CNBC advertises itself as and what it is."
Cramer said that he tries "to make as many good (stock) calls as I can."
But Stewart confronted Cramer with clips from a 2006 interview where Cramer said that, as a hedge fund manager, he manipulated futures trades and encouraged that "because it's legal, and it's a very quick way to make money, and very satisfying."
Stewart concluded by urging CNBC to cut its ad slogan "In Cramer We Trust" and "get back to fundamentals on the reporting, and I can go back to making fart noises and funny faces."
"I think we make that deal right here," Cramer said.