“Rather than saying goodbye or goodnight, I’m just going to say: I’m going to go get a drink. And I’m sure I’ll see you guys before I leave.”
Jon Stewart signed off on the night of the first GOP primary debate, an event filled to the brim with the “bullshit” he went on about near the end of his show (he was channeling George Carlin there). And that, to me, was one of the main draws of The Daily Show: its ability to intelligently evaluate and criticize the bullshit in our society, to trust its audience to recognize it when it popped up around us. Stewart was there for 16 years to point a lot of it out, but as he made clear last night, it was all just a part of an ongoing conversation. He’ll move on and we’ll move on, but informative discourse in our country will–and must–go on. He’s like a teacher and a friend and a parent saying “Go free, children. Be careful.”
With that in mind, I can undoubtedly say that he’s been a huge guiding force for the past 16 years. As we saw in the finale, he not only launched the comedy careers of some brilliant individuals, but also brought another voice to the political landscape of America. He targeted, but he did so with intelligence. He had his own “enemies” of sorts, but there was always a grudging respect of him from the other side. Jon Stewart was great at his job, and it was a true pleasure to watch him work every night.
And that’s exactly what Colbert zeroed in on when he visited the set one last time. “We owe you,” he said, “because we learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, and how to treat people with respect. You were infuriatingly good at your job, and all of us who were lucky enough to work with your for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. We are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man.” Everything about that moment was perfect: the entrance, the Lord of the Rings metaphor, Colbert going on as Stewart couldn’t maintain eye contact, the endearing battle for chair position around the desk…it was just a genuine, funny, and heartwarming moment for the two of them, and Colbert was 100% correct about what he said at the end.
Cue Bruce Springsteen.
Farewell, Jon Stewart. From your bit on Crossfire to your post-9/11 episode to your election coverage to your Glenn Beck takedown to your rally with Colbert to Bullshit Mountain, you were one of the funniest, smartest, and most influential people out there. You still are. You went on the air at a time when our country desperately needed a voice like yours, and you were a call to the good in society, even if that good was difficult to see.
I wish you the best in whatever you decide to do next. We’ll keep the conversation going.
-What I want to know is: whose voice introduced the show every night?
-I recently re-watched a bunch of Even Stevphen videos. Still hilarious.
-Really enjoyed that Goodfellas + behind the scenes tribute, especially when Scorsese showed up.
-I appreciate the fact that he interviewed a ton of people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have received national coverage.
-I’m happy Wyatt Cenac showed up. I’m hoping that they settled whatever went on between them.
-Good luck to Trevor Noah. He has some huge shoes to fill, and I hope he does well.
-Share your favorite Jon Stewart/Daily Show moments, segments, interviews, etc. below if you’d like. I haven’t been watching the show for its entire run, so I’m sure I missed some great moments.
Photo credit: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central