Jon Stewart we say goodbye

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It’s been nearly 17 years that the cable network Comedy Central has ruled late night television. Maybe even dominated late night TV. With shows like Tosh.0, @midnight, The Colbert Report and now The Nightly Show, Comedy Central has built a strong and loyal following that relies on Comedy Central for not only laughs, but their news as well.

This is all due to the one show that continues to dominate late night TV — The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Critics may pan it, call it crass and partisan, but for viewers, loyal, never miss an episode fans it is the most accurate description of the news — and the newsgathering business — that we have.

The message above the studio doors of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Wikipedia)
The message above the studio doors of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Wikipedia)

It has become so important a venue for news that newsmakers of all types make their way to the guest chair, including the sitting president, Barack Obama. Senator John McCain had been a regular guest until 2008 when he and the show’s host had falling out after the Senator and presidential contender phonied up an excuse to cancel an appearance on the show.

And just who is this comedian, late night talk show host son of a bitch who called out a presidential candidate on TV?

John Effin’ Stewart mother [expletive deleted].

Jon Stewart — he can say what no newsperson could hope to say. He can strip away the artifice and ask the question that will get his access denied in the future. Because he knows that access won’t be denied forever.

He can sit down with Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and in less than 10 seconds make a mockery out of the initial launch of the president’s signature Affordable Care Act — Obamacare.

And she was laughing too.

He can have Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly on his show and flat out call O’Reilly a liar — and the two remain friends afterwards.

Jon Stewart could do a lot of this on The Daily Show because it has one veneer of not being serious, and another of being the most serious news program on television.

The Daily Show studios (Wikipedia)
The Daily Show studios (Wikipedia)

They do this seamlessly by presenting the news factually, but then mocking it in the most absurd and satirical ways imaginable. Like when Stewart and his team point out the continuing hypocrisy of Fox News. The grinding, mindlessly clueless nature of the news channel’s hypocrisy.

Like the time Stewart called out Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity’s gleeful support for Cliven Bundy, the racist Nevada rancher who brazenly broke the law and had his minions threaten federal law enforcement by pointing their high-powered guns at federal officials.

Hannity is quick to castigate students and immigrants for breaking the law, but when it’s a right wing nut job like Cliven Bundy, Hannity is all for it. And god forbid you show any kind of anti-patriotic sentiment — Hannity is all over that, criticizing anyone who doesn’t think the U.S. is exceptional. Unless of course you’re Cliven Bundy, the racist who says he doesn’t recognize the U.S. exists.

And that is just one example of the hypocrisy rampant on Fox News.

The Daily Show’s bread and butter, or at least Stewart’s, for the past 10 years (at least) has been to call out Fox News for its bombastic fear-mongering and — oh yes — lies. Most recently Stewart and his team put together a Vine called, “50 lies in 6 seconds.” And they cram 50 lies told my people on Fox News into that 6-second video. Just watching the lies scroll up too fast to read is hilarious.

Stewart’s mocking of Fox has been so unrelenting at times — let’s face it, Fox provides daily fodder for Jon Stewart — it nearly made Megyn Kelly cry on air. Like the time Stewart called her out for claiming, on air, Santa Claus and Jesus were white men. When she responded by claiming she was being funny (nobody laughed), Stewart’s reply was classic: “what appeared to me to be another example of a Fox News segment expressing anger and victimization over the loss of absolute power and reframing that as persecution of Real America by minorities, freeloaders and socialists.”

But Fox News wasn’t Stewart’s only target; CNN was often in the show’s lead segment, like when we were getting endless, daily reports, throughout the day, every day, of the missing Malaysian flight 370 day after day after day.

President Obama on one of the show’s final episode. (Wikipedia)
President Obama on one of the show’s final episode. (Wikipedia)

Or the use of technological gadgetry becoming the news at CNN, instead of actual news. Like the time Stewart mocked CNN for congratulating themselves for making a reporter “shorter and blurrier.” He was talking about the time Wolf Blitzer introduced CNN’s new hologram technology.

“We may have lightly ribbed their enthusiasm for new technology, their magic, giant touch screens in tall, grande and of course venti.” “Virtual Iowa Caucus dildo people,” the humor never stopped.

Then a CNN personality, like the very respected journalist Fareed Zakaria would be a guest on the Daily Show and chastise Stewart for chastising CNN. And they would remain friends afterwards.

  • The show also took many shots at MSNBC.

Then there is Arby’s, the restaurant chain. Stewart’s years of one-liners insulting the company’s product was always funny, but for those of us who actually like Arby’s food, it was often a little too close for comfort.

Well, the fine people at Arby’s have, at the very least, a sense of humor. They sponsored Stewart’s penultimate show and the very first commercial that aired from Arby’s was the funniest part of Wednesday Night’s show. It ends with the tag: “Not sure why, but we’ll miss you.”

The Daily Show has been the best late night programming for the entire time Jon Stewart has been at the helm. David Letterman was great, Craig Ferguson a laugh riot and Stephen Colbert the ultimate satirist in the history of American comedy. But Jon Stewart on The Daily Show has been the best.

Woe be to you if you called between 11 p.m. and midnight — I was busy watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. How dare you interrupt the most entertaining hour of my day!

And woe be to anyone who calls tonight during the last — the ultimate — episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The cast in 2007: Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Aasif Mandvi, Jason Jones, John Oliver and rob Riggle. (Wikipedia)
The cast in 2007: Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Aasif Mandvi, Jason Jones, John Oliver and rob Riggle. (Wikipedia)

My one complaint about Stewart: the many breaks the show takes during the year. During the Bush Administration he would mock President Bush and the number of days he would spend on vacation from the White House. Bush had taken 407 vacation days in his first five years in office — 81.4 days per year (compared to Obama’s 25 days per year).

Well, The Daily Show goes on hiatus for at least a week once every two months, plus an extended break over the holidays and in the middle of summer — this year it was during July — it was down right hypocritical of Stewart to mock President Bush for taking so many vacation days.

In his defense, the show had to write a new episode four days a week and that is a grind, so they needed time to recharge their creative batteries … but for those of us addicted to the show, having to watch reruns for a week or more — it was painful.

On the bright side, Comedy Central airs its roasts while The Daily Show is in hiatus and those are always funny.

It wouldn’t be right to not mention the correspondents. When Craig Kilborn was the host in the first two years they were used sparingly. During Jon Stewart’s tenure they became integral to the show.

They would often go on location to interview absurd people saying the most ridiculous things on air. Stephen Colbert said you had to hang your soul on a hanger in the closet when doing the field pieces because they would come across as mean-spirited.

But as Jessica Williams showed us on Wednesday Night, the subjects of the hit pieces liked appearing on the show. One even bragged about putting a link to his segment on his website so everyone could see he had been on The Daily Show.

Over the years The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has launched the careers of Olivia Munn, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Aasif Mandvi, Kristen Schaal, A. Whitney Brown, Susie Essman, Jason Jones, Samantha Bee, Rob Riggle and of course Stephen Colbert, who will be taking over as the host of the Late Show, from David Letterman.

Jon Stewart, we’re going to miss you. (screen shot from Daily Show website)
Jon Stewart, we’re going to miss you. (screen shot from Daily Show website)

It’s been a great (almost) 17 years, the best late night comedy in the history of television. Trevor Noah is taking over as host in September and he was a funny correspondent, although his segments were few.

He apparently tweeted an anti-Semitic joke that got him in hot water, but not enough for Comedy Central to replace him.

Jon Stewart is probably doing the right thing, ending his tenure at the height of his popularity, before he becomes stale, while he’s still making us laugh and begging for more. Unlike Arby’s, I know why I’ll miss Jon Stewart.



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