If you’re given a chance to laugh at financial news, take it

At long last, I have something in common with the under-30 crowd besides an affinity for pizza. I, too, am now getting my news from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Not all my news, but it was from Stewart’s mockery of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s first public hearing that I discovered one of the 10 commissioners was Las Vegas’ own Heather Murren.

This isn’t just any old commission. This commission carries the responsibility of sorting out how the financial crisis came about, and how to prevent a recurrence.

Until Stewart’s Jan. 19 show, I didn’t know Murren and Las Vegan Byron Georgiou were on the commission, courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (As majority leader, Reid has placed or supported 19 Nevadans in national positions to help decide issues such as base closures, regulation of nuclear facilities, energy and public lands. The full list is on my blog.)

Stewart pulled ridiculous quotes from CEOs of Wall Street financial institutions and joked the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission A-Team “is all over your assets.” He ridiculed the first hearing as the “we’re sorry” meeting.

The CEOs made it easy. The head of JP Morgan Chase actually said, “Somehow we just missed housing prices wouldn’t go up forever.”

The scene was set up with music from “The A-Team” television show of the 1980s. Photos of five commissioners flew across the screen identifying Bob Graham as “The Bottom Line” and Heather Murren as “Jill Solvent.”

Murren, the founder of the Nevada Cancer Institute, deals with life-or-death issues, and certainly the financial crisis is no laughing matter. “It’s always a little daunting to take on a job this important,” she said Monday. “There’s potential to make a big difference for future generations and find ways to fix it so it doesn’t happen again.”

Lest you assume she got the job because her husband, Jim, did political ads for Harry Reid, think again. Murren’s background as a former Merrill Lynch analyst means she’s no novice to Wall Street. “The hardest part may be sorting out things that were causes from things that were symptoms,” she said.

Apparently, it’s more complex than people exaggerating their income to get into houses they couldn’t afford and banks approving the loans, and then selling them — not giving a damn if people defaulted.

While it’s a serious subject, Murren had no problems with Stewart’s scornful but humorous treatment. “I thought it was funny, and it gives people a way to know what we’re doing,” she said. And there was a direct benefit. The day after the Stewart show, the commission’s site at http://www.fcic.gov/ was the single most Googled entity.

Murren urged people to submit questions and comments at the Web site because it’s important the commission addresses these issues and make them clear to the public by stripping away some of the mystery surrounding finance. “If people feel strongly about what occurred, I hope they’ll be in touch by e-mail to tell us what direction we can go,” she said.

Her sons, 14 and 11, watched the Stewart show online after friends called to tell the family about it. “We had to explain ‘The A-Team’ to them, which made me feel about 100 years old,” their 43-year-old mom said, laughing.

“Once they understood the context, they got it,” said Murren, aka Jill Solvent. “I think humor is a wonderful way to convey information, and if there’s a choice between laughing and crying, it’s better to laugh.”

That’s why, after decades of watching the 11 p.m. news, I now watch Stewart and Stephen Colbert before going to bed, figuring the blood and guts news will still be waiting for me in the morning.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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