Josh Johnson Makes the Best Case for American Exceptionalism

There’s a famous scene from the pilot of HBO’s The Newsroom in which disgruntled news anchor Will McAvoy is asked on a panel why America is the greatest country then shocks the attendees, and world, by ranting that it isn’t. During his set on The Late Late Show With Stephen Colbert on November 21, comedian and The Daily Show writer Josh Johnson offered a rejoinder to that rant that blows all McAvoy’s haughty data about “education” and “health care” out of the water. Johnson has identified two things he believes America does better than any other country in the world, and he makes unimpeachable cases for both of them.

The first area of supremacy, Johnson explains, is the military. “Who’s touching us?” he asks. “We forget what a privilege that is. There are other people in other parts of the world that go to bed in genuine fear of their neighbors in the north, south, east, and west. We don’t have that at all. We’re not scared of our neighbors to the north and the south. I wish Canada would. I wish Canada would catch a tone, do you understand? We would slap the maple out of Canada.”

America’s second area of triumph, Johnson continues, is its innovations in food flavoring. He jokes about how Americans enjoy flavors like “blue” and “purple,” and, in a perfect use the rule of three, offers a third example that comes completely out of left field. “If we all went to India tonight and we had traditional Indian food, it’d be amazing. You’d have your mind blown,” he says. “But you’d taste the turmeric, you’d taste the cumin, you would taste everything they’ve been putting in the dish in the time it’s taken to perfect it. Meanwhile, in America, we’re like, ‘I wanna taste birthday.’” He pauses and licks his lips while the audience cheers. “You know your birthday is a day, so it’s time, so you can’t taste time?” he jokes.

Not unlike Johnson’s description of traditional Indian food, this is a set in which you notice everything he “put in the dish and the time it took to perfect.” The care in his joke writing is evident, as are all the little techniques — from the strategic pauses to the precise act-outs — he uses to squeeze every ounce of laughter out of them. It’s a shame Johnson can’t actually debate fictional news anchor Will McAvoy, but in a just world, someone would post this clip underneath that one from The Newsroom every time it pops up on social media.

Josh Johnson Makes the Best Case for American Exceptionalism