Bulls#%t Is Everywhere
On an incredibly normal Wednesday morning last February, I woke up at 6:30AM like I always do (hard to believe, but true), fired up www.thedailyshow.com, and did nothing else but watch for the next twenty-two minutes. It’s exactly the same thing I’ve done for four days a week every week (except for the infuriatingly random two-week breaks the show takes) for about eight years. Jon opened with a bit about how conservatives were seemingly upset that President Obama wasn’t acting more like Jordan’s Abdullah II or Egypt’s el-Sisi – both of whom happen to be powerful Muslim dictators. An interview with David Axelrod, a senior White House advisor, followed. There remained a full four minutes left in the video for the Moment of Zen, a segment which routinely took about 30 seconds. Sometimes Jon would use this time to throw over to The Nightly Show (previously The Colbert Report), or to advertise a charity – but this time it was different. He announced that he was to leave the show.
People like Jon have existed in this country forever – those who satirize the political process and the media. But what he did wasn’t to mock for the sake of facetious mocking, it was because of the commanding amalgam of anger-induced exasperation and a genuine need to cultivate integrity with little more than his voice. It was how he did it in a balanced way, taking care to note that absurdity – Stewart’s main forte – has an inherently right-leaning bias. It was bolstered by his utter indifference to his celebrity-sized persona, his closet full of Emmys, and his decision to step down because of his self-admitted “restlessness” – a driving force for only those who know they’ve done everything they could. It was because the thing he was so good at (fixing the news) was at complete odds with what he wanted (for the news to be right in the first place); and how he thrived even when his best sources of material were no longer in the spotlight.
Most people watched the show before bedtime. I – with the exception of last night’s final episode – had my fix in the morning. And it truly was a fix… on that day, I learned the ruling structure of two countries, the worldview comparison of toughness on terror, and the influence of appointed officials on an executive. And I smirked idiotically at my computer screen throughout the entire duration. It was more a pick-me-up than just entertainment, a drug to quell the “faith in humanity” epidemic. A helping hand to get through the day, as opposed to one that would help me sleep easier – which is undeniably how the political storm in this country has made me feel.
The most temporally relevant aspect of his legacy – a legacy he only cared about insofar as to be taken seriously while he was the one preaching – is how his platform has given rise to others who embody the entire spectrum of civic-mindedness. From the we-don’t-get-along Wyatt Cenac, to the short-lived Michael Che, to movie stars Ed Helms and Steve Carrell, to TV stars Rob Corddry – the not-politically-minded. And then there was the for-real-correspondent Rob Riggle, the investigative-one-time-host Jason Jones, and the best-correspondent-of-all-time (yes, I said it) Sam Bee – the middle of the line. Not to mention his greatest successes: Larry Wilmore (give him time), John Oliver, and Stephen Colbert. By the way, those are just the ones who’ve left (*intentionally leaves out Olivia Munn). But the reach doesn’t stop there – we’ll see in a couple of decades how the generation that grew up with Stewart affects the narrative in that time. Trevor’s the first.
He taught me the importance of rationality and delivery – a required feature when you’re throwing rocks at the windows of a massive twenty-story building. He showed me how to ask questions, and keep asking those same damn questions even when you never got an answer – a character trait which was fueled by his guests, whom he selected carefully and interviewed even more carefully (sometimes even for half an hour straight). And he demonstrated how to annihilate those who can’t answer those questions, most visibly in his long-running bits that lasted over the span of years. He drove me at one point to want to go into politics, a desire entrenched deeply enough to still kinda-low-key exist. More than that, he made me want to be funny – an endeavor which most of my friends will undoubtedly say I’ve failed at – and know how to infuse humor and embody it.
It’s weird saying goodbye to a notable public figure. Film stars, musicians, and authors just stop producing content or produce extremely bad content which stops them from producing any more content. Politicians get fired or show their genitals to the public. Athletes have their bodies destroyed or attempt failed comebacks. Even television shows have some sense of finality, of closure. Jon’s last lecture was on the topic he’d spent so long trying to eradicate from this world: bullshit. He talked about bullshit because he knew it had outlived him, but stepping down was not his way of giving up. Even Colbert, in his well-scripted final episode, threw to Jon at the end, because that’s what all of us have done for so long. Now Jon’s gone (but not dead!). Jon threw it to all of us.
Jon Outside the Daily Show
The Daily Show Segments
04/10/12: Why? CNN’s Branded Segments
10/16/12: Please, For the Love of God Make It Stop
10/18/12: Condescent of a Woman
02/21/13: Doc Blockers
04/24/13: Weak Constitution
05/21/13: Canada High
06/05/13: Gov Story
11/13/13: Tower Record
12/11/13: Budge Report
01/21/14: Sochi Homophobic Olympics
01/28/14: Waging Bull
03/12/14: The Covert Report
Barack Obama: 2012
Elizabeth Warren: 2014
J.J. Abrams: 2013