TV has gone from a channel dial, to a remote control to clicks on an online streaming page, resulting in an increasingly isolated experience — but The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, during its host's 17-year tenure, was a cozier, bedtime-communal-viewing experience. And, it simultaneously appealed to die-hard streamers who'd share clips on Facebook and Twitter the following day.
The Comedy Central show's outgoing host is a TV icon, like Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson. Garnishing his delivery with fits of outlandish gesticulation — from stereotypical Jewish neuroses to spot on G.W. impersonations to that ol trusty clueless-Guido shtick — Jon Stewart blessed the show with an enviable wit and insight. He changed our attitudes about and expectations of political satire. He served up his jokes with a cheese-free affection and humanity, an urgency that we never got from benignly clever sketch shows of the past.
As most of you know already, tonight's Stewart's last night hosting the show. The hour-long episode has been kept under wraps. No guests have been announced. No doubt it will be an all-star free for all like Colbert's earlier this year.
During this past final week, Stewart has paid homage to his comedian roots, hosting three of show business's most esteemed stand-up comics: Amy Schumer, Louis CK and Denis Leary. CK credited Stewart for changing the face of comedy. "I'm thrilled to be your last dude," he said. "I'm representing all comedy just to say — nice job." The comedians reminisced and even injected a little goth humor into their bro-down, predicting their forthcoming virally eulogized death; they would die together "holding hands."
Stewart, ever a master of the takedown, made a difference time to time too. He pointed out a gaffe in the Department of Veterans Affairs' policy, that to qualify for a program to obtain care outside the Veterans Administration network, vets waiting for operations needed to live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The agency later changed its rules. Just announced in May, Stewart is running a five-week industry training session for army veterans who want to get into the television business.
Self-effacing, as genuine as he was snarky, and disarmingly congenial, the 52-year-old fake-news pundit from New Jersey connected us to a broader mindset during his stint on the Daily Show. He made us feel vindicated as he whipped up a comical dessert from our frustrations of the day, whether it was some partisan claptrap or more recently the cray-cray allure of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
We watched and rewatched Stewart. We'd try our damndest to recite his one-liners the next day. Stewart always knew how to take it a step further, offering hilarious surprises along the way, like telling Bernie Goldberg and Fox News to go bleep themselves tent revival-style with a gospel choir backing him up.
Tampa Bay fans flocked in droves past well-starched Romney minions to catch a live taping of his show at the Straz Center during the Republican National Convention in 2012. While they had a friendly chat, Stewart called Rubio out with a classy burn on logical flaws in the now presidential candidate's economic views.
Aided by punny headlines and punchlines that crystallized the absurdity of media talking points, Stewart became our go-to for cathartic comic relief after a long day. For 17 years, he put into clever words what we were kvetching about and drew attention to important issues more swiftly efficiently than the talking heads on network and cable news.
To Fox news, he dispatched a zinger to end all zingers: “This show’s been harder on the Obama administration than you ever were in your eight years of Bush fingerbanging."
Like a funny best friend who's moving away, we will miss seeing your face on a daily basis, Jon. There will be a little twinge and avoid every night when we put our jammies on, but we look forward to news of your illustrious exploits. We know you're meant for bigger things, and we wish you the best — and a big, tight, awkwardly long hug.
CL took to Facebook to find out from readers what they would say to Stewart on his last day. Here are some of the fond farewells and memories they shared:
The run up to the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The Bush years following 9/11 and during the Iraq War (so 7 of the 8 years) were horrible, and I often found myself watching the news coverage and thinking, "Can I really be one of a few people who think this is total bullshit?" Stewart (and then Colbert) provided a nightly reminder that, no, everyone had not gone crazy, and there were still plenty of good people out there with their thinking caps on. Liking The Daily Show at that time was to be a part of an exclusive club, with J.Stew as Club President, leading us all through a snarky reading of the minutes four nights a week. The Rally was something of a watershed moment, in that it showed there was a HUGE community of like-minded people out there not drinking the Bush Kool-Aid, and it trumped an abominable Glenn Beck-led rally that had been held in the same space a few months earlier. It made me proud to be an American. —Joe Bardi, Digital Managing Editor at ABC 7 Sarasota (and former CL Managing/Online Editor)
That time he got "Crossfire" canceled will always be my favorite moment.
I could not have survived the election cycles of the last several years without him.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your intelligence, wit, and humor. I am bereft!
You're gonna be back! Thanks so far! heart emoticon
—Joan E Hepsworth
"Arby's: When grief and despair aren't enough to swallow." ... Loved his turtle imitation of Mitch McConnell and the Penguin as Dick Cheney. NO ONE was better at exposing partisan hiprocracy. Of course, with Fox News (Buls#[email protected] Mountain), it probably wasn't much of a challenge.
I still can't talk about it. I need grief therapy.
Huge thanks to JS & Daily Show. He helped me get thru the Bush Administration and recent current events. As more comes out about him personally, I love him more and more. He's dedicated to our vets and human rights world wide. Going to miss the show immensely but know he deserves a rest!
Whether you like Stewart or not, he's extremely well-read and calls pundits and politicians to task on EITHER side of the fence. My favorite episodes were when Bill O'Reilly was a guest. There was actual intelligent, lively debate between the two and not O'Reilly steamrolling over a differing person's viewpoint. ... On a non-Daily Show moment, he was onstage with George Lucas at Celebration V. He pulls out a giant notebook with a "few questions for Mr. Lucas". First question: "Jar-Jar — WHY?"
Stewart is a political satirist....a modern Mark Twain....he always focused on the absurd nature of our gov't/media types when they exposed themselves being hypocritical through video taped statements...the best proof, actual comments from their mouths.......he leeched onto the Fox commentators as they are easy prey, like poor Cecilown was....who blatantly showed their bias and he exposed them no end.....sure he has his bias's too but who in this business doesn't....it's not a journalistic...(notice that's the first time I used that word)...endeavour as much as an editorial one, his opinion, which a large audience obviously agreed with....remember the DC rallies where they had many times the people show over the Glenn Beck and other right wing rallies?.....he made the players in their game look silly or worse......because they are.....and they get caught with their pants down....I like how the Fox contingent attacked as if he was supposed to be an unbiased news person when he was openly a comic yet they were the ones being ironic.
— Dave Hundley
Jon consistently cut through the bullshit that our media subjects us to on a daily basis. His approach to the news was always pragmatic and hilarious, and he somehow managed to avoid sounding sanctimonious throughout his stewardship (or is it Stewart-ship?) Jon Stewart: I want to have a beer with you.
He spoke truth to power and was funny at the same time.
I can’t begin to describe how comforting it was to watch the Daily Show and Jon Stewart every night during the Iraq War / Mess O’Potamia / Bush Administration. Hearing him call out the BS every night made it a little more bearable. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get through presidential elections without him!
Jon Stewart's brilliance has long been axiomatic. It's a fact of nature, a cosmic truth. As host of The Daily Show, Jon's been able to make us laugh, about absurdities that should make us cry, a talent that's been on display for years. But my favorite and most enduring memory of Stewart and his role in decimating political theater took place more than a decade ago and it wasn't even on his own show.
While Jon was both king and court jester on the set of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, it was during the 2004 presidential race between John Kerry and incumbent President George W. Bush, with the backdrop of CNN's Crossfire behind him, that his finest hour took place, in utter and unyielding earnestness to boot. Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, who regularly hosted Crossfire (the cancellation of which was announced a few months later) were expecting Stewart to come on the show and lightheartedly push TDSWJS' new book, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Instead of the funny monkey they hoped would amuse them, they got a raging Jon Kong who took them to task for using their format to complacently mire American politics into an increasingly binary circus, one in which progress was ostensibly impossible for lack of common ground on which to compromise.
Grim and stone-faced, Stewart laid into Begala and Carlson for being “partisan hacks,” and for exemplifying the mainstream media's collective failure to truly serve the people. They wanted naked pictures of the Supreme Court and instead got a lecture on their responsibility to the public discourse. Carlson inadvisably quipped that Stewart should get a job at a journalism school but Jon outgunned him, screaming “You need to go to one!”
It was then, still fairly early in his tenure as host and Comedy Central's darling, that Jon Stewart showed the world that The Daily Show wasn't just about laughs, though they offer a mighty bounty indeed. Anyone could see by then that Jon Stewart gets it, but it was then that we all saw that he believes.
Post-script: less that three months after Jon Stewart burned the charade that was Crossfire to the ground, CNN gave it the coup de grace. In the first week of January, 2005, CNN's incoming president, Jonathan Klein, invoked Stewart's scathing rebuke of Crossfire in announcing its cancellation. “"I think he made a good point about the noise level of these types of shows, which does nothing to illuminate the issues of the day."
—Kevin Tall, CL Contributor