Originally published August 11, 2015
The evening of August 6th was the final humorous beckoning to logic and reason from one of the most important wells of intellectual succor we citizens of planet earth have had for nearly 17 years. Jon Stewart has signed off the Daily Show, leaving us a 2600 episode popcorn kernel trail through some of America’s and the world’s most foolish behaviors, idiotic actions, saddest human events, political circuses, governmental spit-balling and knee-slappingly funny mental mind-bombings. And, some of the best one on one interviews the 11PM TV time slot has ever produced. Each late night evening, this 4th dimensional journalist would, through richly crafted scripts of monologues, skits and segments present us not just with the ‘news’ of the day but more so hold up a mirror and force us to answer the questions, “Who’s the most scariest, dumbest, stupidest, kindest, heroic, inspiring, funniest and interesting one of us all?”
With respect to the latter two points, it was Jon himself that sheepishly and with quiet humility took the prize most often. As he himself said in his last episode’s final word before letting his tenure at the Daily Show desk fade to black, bullshit comes in many forms. Well, Mr. Stewart was (and forgive me if I gush a bit here, Jon, despite knowing you dislike the attention), and hopefully to any god that may exist will still be one of the most acute bullshit detectors of both the 20th and 21st centuries. Ceaselessly over the years, America (mostly) and the rest of our big blue marble’s inhabitants were more than at the ready with shovelfuls of the stuff to keep Jon’s sniffer busy.
From this writer’s perspective, the very fact that this blog has been launched, is directly and deeply related to years of having significant respect and admiration for his filling an important gap in our country and our world: the one between the ears of the residents of both. Despite how deeply the powers of right and left politics, totalitarian tomfoolery, religious dogma or plain old batshit ignorance has tried to bury common sense and honesty Jon Stewart, artfully, humorously and with a wry eye focused on reality wielded his spade of truth, dug it back up, dusted it off and presented it to an audience hungrily craving to be treated like people with actual brains.
There is much to give thanks to Jon for over the years due to his jocular journalism. And, let it never be said that what Jon delivered each night was not journalism. Many are the pointy-headed actual ‘pundits’ who dismissed Jon over the years and the Daily Show as some sort of farcical, ‘fake’ news show. Poppycock. If anyone were to sit through even a few minutes of the ‘real’ journalism of Fox News or CNN or a host of other news-o-tainment sideshow acts that litter the airwaves day in and day out they would become aware that The Daily Show’s humor coated content actually had a hard, nougaty wad of truth in the center. His presentation of the news, although delivered through an inimitable tongue-in-cheek style, came to be recognized as a perspective to be honestly believed. Shortly after the death of Walter Cronkite in 2009, a Time Magazine poll to determine the then currently most trusted newscaster revealed it was Jon Stewart. Certainly, when reporting on politics over the years, what could have been more appropriate than a comedic-newscaster reporting on an infinitely supplied circus parade of clowns?
What an incredibly important perspective is has been fortunate to be exposed to. For example, without Jon, how would we have learned of the distinct similarities between the Sith Lord, Darth Vader and Dick Cheney? It was he who stood defiantly and knowledgeably before the crime against NY pizza when he exposed Donald Trump taking out then vice presidential candidate and sinking McCain campaign boat hole plug, Sarah Palin out for authentic NYC pizza to (and as I write this I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth) a Sbarro pizza chain restaurant that boast locations like the Phoenix airport!! And, to further expose ignorance on top of ignominy he skewered Trump for eating it with a fork! All pizza lovers let us take a moment of reverent silence and give thanks to Jon for that one.
Now, it’s fair to say that an equal part of where Jon’s special show sauce came from was the other half of his program, the interview segment. How sweet they were when they whipped up into a takedown. Case in point, his interview with Jim Cramer just post the first salvos in the mortgage bust. Never was squirming made so delicious. And what can we say about all the jousting with Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly? Nothing, that is, except interviewing pinheads is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Surely, one of his pinnacle pithy punch outs was of doomsday boy himself, Glenn Beck. There isn’t a first grade teacher within a continent of here that wielded a blackboard more artfully – in character no less!
Before anyone can point Jon’s political weathervane due left, let’s not forget his go rounds with President Obama right up until his last one before calling it quits (Jon that is and not Mr. Obama) where he went toe to toe with the commander in chief on the issue of the failures of the Veterans administration. Or how about the interview with Obama’s federal government alum, former Vice President Al Gore, to whom he posed the question (after noting Gore’s Current TV’s sale to Al Jazeera a company based in Qatar, a country with a fossil fuel-based economy), “Can the mogul Al Gore coexist with the activist Al Gore?” Probably his most joyfully buoyant interview, though, was with Malala Yousafzai the fearless female Pakistani gladiator for peace and justice whose effort to speak out against immeasurable oppression dwarfs that of many first world governments. After sitting mesmerized by the wisdom and poise of this young lady, Jon asks sheepishly, “…would he [her father] be mad if I adopted you? Because you sure are swell.”
Many were the times, sadly, where this master of mirth was forced to remove his welcome Jersey Boy grin and instead don the mask of tragedy. There is no more stark a sight than the ashen face of one whose purpose and spirit are dedicated to bring laughter to people beleaguered by the real life events of a very messed up world. It was the Daily Show episode that aired for the first time after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA towards which a post traumatically distressed nation tuned in to somehow try to begin to move the rubble of their emotions and minds in the direction of healing and the rebuilding of normalcy. It was then that Jon, choked by his own tears, helped us start to see that we would get through it. And we believed him. After a time, in no small part thanks to Jon and the incredible staff of people behind him, who by the example of their own one foot in front of the other stepping forward, we came to a place where we could once more hold our heads up and allow ourselves to feel joy again through laughter.
Unfortunately, this was not the only time that humor had to take a back seat to playing the hand dealt by dark reality. That experience for Jon and his audience was only a prelude (just barely two years into his warming of his swiveling anchor desk seat it should be noted) to a number of other pauses of comedy to face national pain. There was his stare down of the Sandy Hook elementary school murders. While fighting through a cold he served up one of his best lobs when summing up the actual reason behind our inability to resist the gun lobby to make any strides at all against gun violence, “Their paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future prevents us from addressing our actual dystopic present.” Bingo.
It was his eyeball to camera look and verbal fist pump that bucked up the people of Boston after a beloved annual race to commemorate patriots became a launch pad for bombs of hatred. As a born and raised Beantowner this writer can say quite honestly that the tear in my eye then was shared between the gratitude of Jon’s poignant feeling of heartfelt sympathy and with those killed and injured on that fateful day. And, even most recently (is it me or is it absolutely astounding that the American snuffing hits just keep on coming?) he stared into the camera lens and thus our eyes after the Charleston S.C. murders and leveled with us that he rightfully and unapologetically had nothing in the way of laughs to give that night. The air had been squeezed out of the comedy balloon as we, too, were all deflated in those aftermath days. But, it is with a full heart that we can bid Mr. Stewart a fond adieu because the happiness and fun he shared through his wit and talent far outweigh any of the daily drudges that came our way. I don’t believe it’s merely wishful thinking to say after a pause and the blowing of some carbon off the old brain valves that Jon Stewart and his irrepressible brand of comedic irreverence will rise again in another equally beneficial fashion. Consider my jonesing officially begun. Until then, he’s left us with plenty of tools for critically seeing, hearing and thinking (but not always blindly believing) for ourselves to allow us to carry on without him for a while. Besides, it’s presidential election season! So, c’mon kids, let’s head to the barn and put on an election show that old Uncle Jon can be proud of!