Freedom from the Known

Watching Mad Money last night, I was struck by something Jim and I talk about all the time, which is the combination of what many would call the total unprofessionalism of some parts the show with the extreme rigor that goes into everything we (meaning mostly Jim) do.

I’m not talking about the unprofessionalism of a guy playing with stuffed cats or wearing costumes or throwing in off-hand references to Some Like It Hot on a stock show, three things I regard as completely professional and necessary, I mean the often totally off-the-cuff approach Jim will take to what we feature on the show. Think about it, last night while taking questions after talking about Range Resources, Jim got stumped by two callers (thank god not two in a row) asking about Brigham Exploration and Linn Energy, two stocks, by the way, that are probably perfect fits for the CNBC stock game, where everyone seems to favor small-cap, speculative names. What’s he do? He admits he doesn’t know them—something I feel is a total no-no in TV, and then he says, "but I’ll get back to you on them tomorrow," which is, again, a pretty unconventional way to decide the content of the next day’s show.

And that really cuts to the heart of the relationship between being unprofessional—or unconventional if you want to be generous, and being rigorous. Like Jim put it last night, “Would it look better if I just made up really good answers and then said yes? Yeah, but you know then the show would be like a complete and total joke—even more than it is now.”

The show’s critics, and they are legion—practically a cottage industry online—don’t like to admit that any rigor goes into what we do on Mad Money, although the cleverest of them will say, “but Jim’s a genius even if his show is a joke.” Are we a joke? Yeah, but I think it’s a pretty good one. And there’s no doubt, if you actually look at what we’re doing closely, that there’s a whole lot of intellectual rigor behind that joke.

P.S.: I thought the two interviews last night with the CEOs of Rex Energy and CSX were some of the most educational, informative, etc., best I've seen lately, and you should check them out if you haven't already.

Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich and Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.

Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.

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