Radio and TV Talk

Rodney Ho covers TV and radio, from Atlanta’s stations to the hottest “American Idol" news.

Jon Stewart's favorite punching bag? Atlanta-based Arby's

Jon Stewart clearly has a beef with Atlanta-based fast-food chain Arby's (slogan: "We Have The Meats")

Last night on his Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," Stewart did it again. While commenting about the Eric Garner case, he said he previously was able to make jokes about the Ferguson case for cathartic reasons. To him, "it's a way of processing emotion that might otherwise go undigested. That process brought to you by Arby's: you think pain and grief are hard to digest!"

There are conspiracy theorists who think Arby's is paying Stewart's show to make disparaging remarks about the brand. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. That sounds plain stupid. But I get a sense Stewart knows a good running joke when he sees one. Maybe Stewart (or his writers) even hates Arby's King's Hawaiian BBQ Brisket. Or roast beef in general. Still, he beats up on Arby's on a fairly regular basis.

In October, Stewart started his show with an Ebola update sponsored by Arby's. "Arby's: See? A lot of things cause diarrhea."

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In March, he called Sean Hannity "the Arby's of news."

In October, 2013, he noted how often Fox News would use his jokes against Obama as proof he needs to go. He then showed examples of others who he did make fun of (such as Fox News) that are still around. And he did get to Arby's: "Still making sandwiches filled with sliced something."

His soon-to-be-departed satirical companion Stephen Colbert isn't immune to Arby's appeal either. In 2011, he said, "If I was about to be killed, I'd eat it. It's that good!"

Perhaps it goes back to 1998, when "The Simpsons" made this classic joke:

Arby's has 3,400 restaurants. (It was ranked 17th largest fast food chain in the world in 2011.) Wendy's sold it to a privately-held entity in 2011. Its audience has been aging and many still think it serves only roast-beef sandwiches. But a campaign to freshen its image and broaden its appeal appears to be working, according to a recent story in the Washington Post.

Its same-store sales were up 2.8 percent in 2013, compared to an industry average of 0.2 percent.  Sales are up an average of 20 percent in the stores that have been renovated.  It’s latest limited-time only sandwich, the Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich, has been the best-selling limited-time item in the company’s history.

So clearly, Stewart's mockery has failed to kill off the brand, as he joked last year.

Arby's earlier this year released a statement, choosing to take Stewart's jokes as jokes and not convey any public pain. Here's chief of brand Chris Fuller:

“While it may appear there’s some beef with Arby’s, and we’re not just talking about our Reuben, we know it’s all in good fun. Seriously though, we appreciate ‘The Daily Show’s’ humor and have enjoyed tracking the online conversations among Arby’s fans and those new to our brand.”

If Arby's has anything new to say, I will add it. (I'm awaiting a response.)

About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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