The Emperor Had No Clothes, And Jon Stewart Was There To Call Him On It

Jon-Stewart-007I’ve always been a fan of The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, but having not watched the show in some time I’d been watching his victory lap as host at something of a remove. The thought of bidding farewell to Jon had ultimately felt to me like having had a really good friend during high school and college, not talking to them for years and then finding out they’d died. You feel bad, but not as viscerally as you might have years before, and the sadness stems more from the time you had missed then the time you would be missing in the future. But now, with The Daily Show With Jon Stewart having officially ended, I lament both of these things: all the smaller bits that I missed over the last few years, and all the incisive commentary that we will need in the years to come. But I can also be immensely grateful, not just for the work that Jon did over the years but the message he embodied and the mentality that he passed on to so many, myself included.

Jon Stewart has accomplished so many things in his tenure at The Daily Show — his righteous annihilation of Jim Cramer, the Rally To Restore Sanity, his election coverages, the deconstruction of Hard Ball — but the beauty of last night’s finale was how well it boiled down Stewart’s tenure and legacy to two distinct elements. The first came from a reunion of pretty much every correspondent the show has had, which really drove home how many brilliant comedic minds had been honed and sharpened and encouraged and blossomed as part of Stewart’s creative team. While Jon would be the first to argue that these people all had immense talent and ability even without him, it’s also clear that working with him at The Daily Show was the launching pad for all of these brilliant voices to reach greater levels of success and stardom. It was a reminder that while Jon Stewart’s legacy owes a huge debt to a tremendous supporting cast, his influence and inspiration begat a comedic bloodline as formidable as any we’ve ever seen.

ds_17153_03_16x9The other major piece of Jon Stewart we saw was in his final Camera 3 monologue for us, the audience, where he was faced with the difficult task of trying to summarize 16 years of comedy and commentary into one short speech; unsurprisingly, he nailed it. Jon encouraged all of us — much as he encouraged his collaborators, I imagine — to watch out for Bullshit, big and small, simple and complex, in the world around us. He warned us how the Powers That Be will obfuscate or misdirect or distort to serve their own ends, and he challenged us to be vigilant for that Bullshit, that we ask questions and confront authority and not accept the Bullshit being fed to us. And this, really, is what The Daily Show With Jon Stewart was all about: exposing and highlighting the Bullshit that runs through the world, that we take for granted and accept, and reminding us how fucked up it was and is. What Jon was asking us to do is to continue where he has left off, to continue to question and challenge and mock the ignorance and authority and entitlement at the heart of the problems in our world.

Ultimately, the majority of this finale was about Jon Stewart’s collaborators and his audience, celebrating the former and encouraging the latter. Jon seemed to realize that he was mainly a vessel for conversation and talent, both of which can and will continue without his voice in the mix. The crew will most likely continue with The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, and the correspondents have found their own ways to build on their time with Jon; Noah, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore and Stephen Colbert will most directly continue in Stewart’s footsteps. And then there is us, the audience, and we have the most important aspect of Jon Stewart’s legacy in our care. In his goodbye, Jon asked us to continue the conversation while he went for a drink. It’s a conversation that is essential to the betterment of our species and our world, and after so many years of letting him carry so much of the burden the least we can do for Jon Stewart is to keep the conversation going with the level of passion and intelligence and humor that he did.

Thank you, Jon.


2 Comments on “The Emperor Had No Clothes, And Jon Stewart Was There To Call Him On It”

  1. shiran says:

    The more I think about that “bullshit” speech the more I realize just how much Jon was emulating George Carlin there. It was really nice to see. And I think the theme of conversation was perfect here. The correspondents piece and the Goodfellas bit both show that TDS under Jon is even more than the sum of its parts, and that when you have really talented people working together and having a conversation with different ideas and points of views, you get something wonderful as a return. And it seems to be mostly thanks to Jon that that creative and open environment was there in the show.

    • brendanfh says:

      Absolutely. It was a very symbiotic relationship between him and the staff and him and the audience, one that ultimately improved everyone involved. And I think we’re better equipped to go out in the world and challenge the Bullshit because of that relationship and conversation we had with Jon, just as the correspondents came into their own while working there.

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