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Pundits vs. Comedians: Who Wins the Battle of Wits?

By Brendon McCullin, Hollywood Staff

The brouhaha that erupted over Stephen Colbert being named as successor to David Letterman's chair as host of CBS' The Late Show once again shined a light on the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the American public that is still raging between comedians and conservative pundits.

When news broke of Colbert's new role - providing him with potentially a much larger audience than his Comedy Central show The Colbert Report - right-wing commentators, especially Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh went on the offensive, decrying CBS' choice as the potential undoing of America.

It was just the latest volley in the feuds that have been going on for years… or at least since Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show in 1999. When the Hollywood Reporter released its list of the 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media, the list included a healthy dose of both conservative commentators (O'Reilly, Fox News' Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity) and comedians (Stewart, Colbert, Jimmy Fallon).

It used to be that comedians made fun of politicians and the political types would just ignore it. That was in the days before cable gave comedians significantly more leeway to discuss politics than Johnny Carson could've ever imagined. To counter what they viewed as liberal bias, conservatives developed their own media stars to keep politicians from having to get dirty. So, who's winning the battle?