Jon Stewart and The Daily Show Leaves Us with an Important Legacy
We thought it was over. We thought the feeling of sadness we got when Stephen Colbert left the Colbert Report two months ago was just a one time thing. The emptiness of a whole half hour in our lives was tough to grasp. Now, we’re going to have to deal with a whole empty hour.
The announcement by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show that he would be leaving once his contract was up at the end of the year was quite a surprise to not just me but to millions of his fans. It wasn’t so much that people thought it was going to happen, we just thought it wouldn’t happen so soon.
Stewart’s contract is up in September and many people have speculated about his departure when his good friend, Stephen Colbert, left his show after nine years this past December to fill David Letterman’s soon to be vacant chair. However, Stewart’s departure seemed so far in the future, something that we wouldn’t have to worry about until the time came.
Unfortunately, that time was yesterday.
In front of an unsuspecting audience, Stewart announced that he would be leaving the show, leaving many of his fans stunned:
Like many people my age who watch his show, The Daily Show is where we go to process the never-ending stream of news that fills our Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines and phone apps every day; his ability to sort through the mess of daily news and present arguments and situations in ways that people can comprehend is his show’s best trait.
Now it’s true that his show, more often than not, tended to lean towards the left side of the political spectrum, but overall his mockery of politicians and policies reached both sides of the aisle. And he made sure his mockery of cable news reached all the news outlets as well.
His appearance on CNN’s Crossfire solidified his belief on the importance of levelheaded, logical, non-overdramatic news presentations; his stance in 2004 is the same stance he takes every night on his show.
The Daily Show has become a safe heaven for those who seek shelter from the 24-hour information barrage that is cable news. It has been the moral weight in the middle, preaching sensible, logical, and rational approaches to the big issues that affect this country.
Ever since the 2000 elections and his now famous Indecision segments every time there’s a presidential election, Stewart has been there to help it all make sense. He’s been the common denominator for the past 16 years, always available to turn to when something didn’t seem right.
In a way, that’s what made him so trustworthy. We knew that no matter what happened, no matter how insane something may have seemed, and no matter how confused we were, we could turn on our television at 11pm and have it all make sense to us by 11:30.
Americans trusted Walter Cronkite to bring them the news during the 1960’s and 70’s. Fast forward to the 2000’s, and many Americans afford Stewart that same trust. It’s amazing that he considers himself a comedian before anything else, and yet is still the most trusted “newsman” in America.
People trust him, maybe not bring them the news, but to show them that those who are supposed to bring it to them are not doing it in a constructive way and to keep everything in line.
For Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, the jester has become the king in the news court.
Multiple surveys have listed The Daily Show audience as being some of the most informed TV audience members. His joking and mocking not only makes people laugh, but has a point to it as well. And sometimes he even affects real change, like in the case of a 9/11 first responder’s bill.
Just like the three branches of government create a system of checks and balances, so too does The Daily Show on the other major cable news networks.
His blunt criticisms of the inner workings of cable news and the exposure of scare tactics in the media has lead us to think twice when we watch a story unfold on TV. Being skeptical is a trait that journalists should have when reporting a story; what Stewart has done has made us better journalists in our own right by bringing out our skepticism to news stories that may seem overblown.
“We can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of the main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen, or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected flaming ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
-Jon Stewart, Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
In its most basic form, The Daily Show is a simple 30-minute, late-night cable comedy show that contains some fart jokes and the occasional photoshopped picture. But in reality, it’s so much more than that. It is a voice for those who are too busy with their daily lives to spend their time yelling about issues. It is a voice for those who want to see a change in the way they get their news. And it is a voice for those who like to laugh. Ultimately, The Daily Show acts as a voice for many people with Jon Stewart as the representative.
At the end of all of his shows, Stewart does his “Moment of Zen” segment which is usually a short 10-second video of some sort. So as his show comes to an end, I’d like to thank Jon and The Daily Show for giving us our own Moment of Zen for 30-minutes every weeknight for the last 16 years. We sure will miss it.