Jon Stewart says goodbye to “The Daily Show” and its rabid fan base on August 6. After 17 years of dissecting (and poking fun at) the news, the beloved host will hand over the reins to successor Trevor Noah. While the series will live on, it just won’t feel the same without Stewart’s engaging personality, commitment, and comedic style and we’re going to miss him. Here are five big reasons why.
1. He made us laugh. A lot.
It is not easy to be constantly funny. Sometimes the news is slow, boring, or so terrible it takes a genius to find a way to make a joke about it. Stewart has a gift with comedy, an ability to make us laugh with just a meaningful pause or perfectly-timed look of surprise. He used different voices, roller-coaster levels of emotion, clever or goofy puns, and heaps of scathing sarcasm.
2. He got people who don’t care about the news to care about the news.
Successful teachers will tell you it doesn’t matter if you use lectures, movies, or rap music to help illuminate a subject for the class. Whatever gets people to learn is a great technique. The beauty of Stewart’s monologues on “The Daily Show” was that he simultaneously amused and educated his audience of people who were bored or dissatisfied with ordinary news programs.
It wasn’t just the jokes. Yale University’s “Climate Connections” praised Stewart’s ability to cut through all the noise to provide a clear picture of an E.P.A. issue.
“In just three and a half minutes, Stewart had summarized the complicated legal and political forces at play in Bush-era attempts to address climate change.”
Anything that makes people smarter in less time than it takes to get their morning lattes is going to become a hit.
3. He’s the King of the Rant.
Everyone gets mad in life, but sometimes we just can’t articulate what we’re feeling. But it felt like Stewart never had that problem and that’s another reason why we love him. He could introduce a horrific situation calmly but critically, with ever-growing cynicism, and we felt he was a kindred spirit. Then he’d unleash the rage, and we would cheer, laugh, and enjoy the catharsis of collective anger at an injustice.
It wasn’t just shouting, although that was fun, too. Stewart made us feel that an issue had been exposed, that its perpetrators had been verbally cut down to size. It doesn’t always solve the problem, but even that amount of vindication feels good.
4. He’s not afraid to debate his opponents in person.
As anyone who frequents social media knows, it’s easy to point and laugh at people and policies from a safe distance. Stewart frequently took on politicians and ultra-conservative pundits on his own show as well as theirs. He even staged a full candidate-style debate with FOX news’ Bill O’Reilly, and the two regularly exchanged barbs face-to-face.
Over the years, we learned that, while Stewart mocked people’s ideas and policies, the end message was about our right to have opinions and argue them.
“For the most part, the legislators and journalists and institutions that we jab and ridicule are not, in any way, the enemy,” he said in a statement about the Charlie Hebdo attack.
There is plenty of real, violent evil in the world to fear more than a conservative talk show host.
5. He knows when to be serious.
Part of “The Daily Show” is making even bad news funny and entertaining. Laughter can help us cope with difficult situations, but sometimes a situation is too large in scope and horror to simply make fun of. At those times, Stewart took to his desk with more heartfelt and anguished feelings to share.
His more recent rant on the Charleston shootings showed us a man who has seen a lot of bad news and doesn’t know how to process it anymore. It’s inevitable to get worn down by offensive things in the country that never seem to change. Back in 2001, however, Stewart was still feeling hopeful about America. In one of his most moving episodes, the comedian shared his truest emotions in the aftermath of 9/11.
Stewart decided that it’s time for him to move on. For a man who’s seen so much, it may be good for someone with a fresher perspective to step in. Stewart has clearly started something, however. Just look to the fresh crop of faux news hosts like John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” He uses a similar comedy format, with the addition of more investigative journalists. Stewart showed that news and comedy can have more than just entertainment value.
The host will be going out in style, once again willing to take on everyone he’s mocked over the years. His last show will be a roast, and we should see “enemies” like O’Reilly and Donald Trump lining up to take aim. Stewart could always take a joke as well as dish one out, and we’re really going to miss him doing exactly that on “The Daily Show.”