Saturday, August 08, 2015

Oh no! Not ANOTHER tribute to Jon Stewart?

 Yes, I'm afraid so. 

How will we get through the next presidential campaign without him?  Or a day in Congress? 

I have to say I felt a much greater sadness watching Jon Stewart's last show than David Letterman’s. Letterman was like saying goodbye to Willie Mays during his final days as a Met when he could hardly fit into his uniform. Stewart was like Sandy Koufax retiring in the prime of his career.

There once was a time when a politician caught lying would destroy his credibility and career. If a large corporation was exposed for fraudulent business practices there would be a national uproar. If the news department of a national network reported with bias all hell would break out.

Today, there is so much lying, deception, greed, distrust, hypocrisy, and bias that it’s almost accepted. People are either too weary or too stupid to be alarmed… or even notice.

That’s why it was so refreshing and vital to have THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart. He called everyone out on their bullshit. Republicans, Democrats, and whatever party Donald Trump eventually runs on – no one was above being called out.

And people took notice. Especially young people – the people who will shape the country’s future. So Jon Stewart performed a real service. And let’s be honest, they (and we) watched not so much because we felt it was our obligation to be informed citizens – we watched because it was entertaining, hilarious even.

At a time when sitcoms like 2 BROKE GIRLS and movies like VACATION could not be more puerile and stupid, Jon Stewart proved that smart, sophisticated, literate humor could still hit the mark. We're not all so dumb after all!  Who knew? 

Even more impressive was how consistently excellent his material was, night after night for sixteen long years. He had more great topical jokes in one night than Jay Leno had in ten years.

But wait! There’s more!

Comedy wasn’t even his best thing. The few times Stewart broke format and just spoke from the heart, discussing a serious topic (like gun control) his program transcended entertainment and became extraordinary. He lifted social consciousness to higher levels.  That's pretty cool for a Comedy Central show. 

And now he’s leaving. I don’t blame him. Sixteen years of exposing buffoons like Bill O’Reilly has to get old. "You're kidding?  Now he says he's the first man to walk on the moon?"

But I am sure sad to see Jon go. The show will go on but it won’t be the same. Trevor Noah has an impossible task. How do you replace Jon Stewart? That’s like how do you replace Vin Scully or John Wooden or Regis Philbin (okay, well… maybe not that one)?

I’m also sad because the topical nature of THE DAILY SHOW means the show has no shelf life. All of that brilliant comedy writing is lost in the ether. It’s such a joy to me that MASH and CHEERS episodes I co-wrote twenty or thirty years ago are still being seen and appreciated today. Who’s going to watch a ten year old DAILY SHOW except for historical purposes or to see Olivia Munn when she was really hot? And what that means is that in another twenty or thirty years (or, considering how fast things change today, two years) audiences won’t have the reverence for THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart that they should. He deserves a place in American culture right up there with Mark Twain and Will Rogers, I only hope that in ten years he’s not just known as the new host of FAMILY FEUD.

Thanks Jon, for sixteen years of brilliance, vigilance, laughter, and compassion. I hope the next sixteen years are as meaningful and fulfilling for you as these last sixteen have been for all of us.

Oh God! Now I have to face Jeb & Donald & Hillary & Rand & Arby’s alone.

44 comments:

brian t said...

Another problem facing Mr. Noah is the way John Oliver has stolen some of the Daily Show's thunder, fixing its major shortcoming in the process: lack of depth in the reporting.

PS: you mean there was a time was Olivia Munn was even hotter than she was on the last episode. Firing up the wayback machine ...

barriowolf said...

Jon Stewart's intelligence (and writing staff) just added so much to his comedy. The Daily Show got me to thinking more about what was going on in current events than any other "NEWS" organization out there. It's difficult not to roll your eyes when you see whats on now.

Ken, a side note, I always smile when I read your posts. I enjoy your body of work. Thanks for the stuff you put out.
J. Gonzales

Bill Avena said...

I'll join in praise for Jon Stewart and agree with you on his value to our country. I won't praise Comedy Central's huckster profiteering. Notice how the Daily Show was their only program that started ON the hour- every other show was on an off-kilter schedule to better suck out the money from commercials. And why did they bleep the program? It's cable, and they could have run "Traci Lords I Love You" without FCC trouble instead of turning Stewart into a Morse code machine!
And there are too many states! Please eliminate three!

Michael said...

What a lot of people don't realize is that, more than calling out politicians, Stewart was the greatest media critic of our time. And not just Fux Noise. He kicked the living daylights out of CNN, MSNBC, the major networks, and sometimes the print media.

I could swear that this happened, but I can't find the video. McCain used to do the show until one night he started in about opponents of the Iraq War not being patriotic and Stewart chewed him out, live. I don't remember McCain being back on the show until the final episode.

Mike Barer said...

Your tribute is right on and his last show was so classy!

Mike Barer said...

"I'm going to get a drink and I'm sure I'll see you guys before I leave." Amongst the best show closes I remember.

Orwell said...

16 years of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show was at least six too many. I quit watching regularly many years ago when his schtick became too manic and cartoonish to stomach, and the obnoxious studio adoration became unbearable. Jeez, people, take a breath. I've seen a few episodes more recently, and have laughed very few times, and in general have found him to be unwatchable. Sorry, Jon, won't miss you.

luciuspaisley said...

I've never seen the attraction of Olivia Munn, EVER.

She plays everything like a poor facsimile of Parker Posey, and I like her even less.

And don't get me started on everything that's wrong with Aubrey Plaza...

HOWEVER, Olivia on the last Daily Show looked like an Olivia Munn skinsuit filled with bones and sawdust.

I mean, for fuck's sake - EAT SOMETHING, BITCH!

MikeK.Pa. said...

Fortunately Stewart's biggest legacy is the outstanding bench he created with Carrell, Colbert, et al. And you still have John Oliver, who's proudly carried the mantle and brilliant on HBO.

Really great post today. Well thought out and expressed. Was nodding my head through most of it.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Carell, not Carrell

Xenu said...

Jon Stewart is terrific and sharp, which makes it all the more disappointing that his recent and therefore last interview with Tom Cruise was so soft ball and sycophantic. Instead of asking Cruise about the documentary Going Clear and the shocking record of abuse, violence and corruption in Scientology, he asked him about stunts. Apparently Cruise's people have issued stern orders to all journalists not to ask about Going Clear, in which case Stewart shouldn't have had him on his show.

It's quite funny that this brainwashed idiot loves to play action heroes and even said in that notorious internal Scientology video that was leaked that he doesn't shy away from corruption, and yet here he is getting his PR people to warn journalists not to ask him difficult and embarrassing questions. Yeah, real tough guy.

Xenu said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be he said he doesn't shy away from confrontation, though ironically there's plenty of corruption in his cult.

tb said...

I always loved the signs - or whatever they're called - that would appear next to him, they were so funny, the play on words, the movie spoofs, they were gold.
John Oliver, I dunno, he kinda forces jokes into an otherwise serious bit - needs work if you ask me. Best of luck to Trevor Noah

Dale Gribble said...

“They (Congress) just wait until no one is looking and then slip this toxic stuff in? Are they the Bill Cosby of legislation?” --Jon Stewart, December 2014

Shi Shi Sha!

Jake Mabe said...

Couple of things and a Friday Question.

You make a great point about shows that go topical unfortunately losing their edge as time passes. I consider "All in the Family" one of the five best and most groundbreaking shows to ever air on American TV, and while I can (and often do) still laugh at it and enjoy it, I don't know how many people under 40 could watch it and understand why Archie goes nuts and yells "goddammit!" when Meathead keeps repeating "Watergate" 100 times. It's sad because that show was so damn good at its peak (and it's also sad that we've reverted to the point that a show trying to do what "All in the Family" did has a snowball's chance in hell of getting on network TV today, but I won't go into that rant).

It's funny how some of America's best humorists can, within time, become all but forgotten. When my health allows, I like to listen to airchecks at Archive.org of Jean Shepherd from his WOR-AM heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, I'd say a huge portion of the public doesn't even know his name, and the ones who do only know him as the narrator and co-writer of "A Christmas Story." It's sad. He influenced a variety of people, from Garrison Keillor to Harry Shearer, and it's almost spellbinding to listen to him seemingly ad-lib (although he wasn't) a story for 45 minutes, most of which are absolutely hilarious. I can't help but wonder if Stewart, too, will fade in time, although he'll remain better known nationally than Shep, mainly because Shep was on the radio, and his audience was limited to New York (and the Tri-State area) and whoever up and down the East Coast and in the Midwest could pick up WOR at night. He never got syndicated.

Now, FRIDAY QUESTION (two parter): I've been watching "M*A*S*H" some of late, and I've gotten to the season (6 or 7, I think) in which Winchester arrives. You and David are listed as "story editors," but you're also still writing episodes (I saw the "M*A*S*H Olympics" last night). Really ignorant question, but one I honestly want to know: when you and David became story editors, what did that entail and how did your roles increase, other than the obvious? And did "M*A*S*H" have a blend of a regular writing staff AND accept freelance submissions? Because, I've noticed that a lot of writers show up regularly (I'm not counting Alan Alda here), and then you'll see an occasional episode written by someone who's never heard from again.

Igor said...

Yes, brilliant. But as thin-skinned as they come (track down the incident re Seth MacFarlane/Family Guy).

And, in a small way, it always pissed me off that whenever he'd say that something had to be bleeped he would blame the FCC - which has no jurisdiction over cable-show content. IOW, he should have been blaming the bleeps on the wimpy guys who were paying him, Comedy Central.

Donald Benson said...

Stewart at his weakest was still head and shoulders above just about everybody except Stewart at his best.

For me, the most noticeable thing was how many of the remaining full-time correspondents (particularly Jason Jones and Samantha Bee) checked out after Stewart's announcement, leaving three comparative kids. Hoping Noah will replenish the stock and we'll have more field reports again.

Supposedly a lot of the staff is sticking around for Trevor Noah, so there's reason to hope the quality will hold up.

I'm enjoying "The Nightly Show", even though it's clear Larry Wilmore is still fine-tuning. First smart move was to trim the panels from four guests to three; sometimes it's just wisecracking but Wilmore does try to get something more out of them. Some nights I would have gladly traded the first half for more time with the panel, even though the first half was sharp.

Stephen Robinson said...

Stewart's final show reminded me of Letterman's final LATE NIGHT in '93. There's just a different feel than when a host is essentially retiring with arguably his best work behind him. That was Letterman this year, unfortunately.

I think Trevor Noah has an impossible task, as well, because he's so different from Stewart. I don't necessarily mean talent wise but demographically: Stewart was white, working-class Jew from Jersey. He was part of the establishment while in every way an underdog. Remove any part of that and it becomes harder to attack racism in America or even American politics in general. It'll be interesting to see.

Barry Traylor said...

Jon was always my bright spot in the day. I think I will have to go to rehab starting next week.

Cap'n Bob said...

Who's Jon Stewart?

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Jon was the white-hot knife in the gooey butterball of bullshit that comprises our popular culture...

I'll miss him tremendously.

James Van Hise said...

It just means his staff has to work hard. When John Oliver had to replace Jon for 3 months in 2013, I didn't expect to warm up to it. It took a couple weeks and then I could see that it was really the same show so long as the new host was up to the challenge, and John Oliver was so good at doing it that HBO made him an offer he couldn't refuse. We'll see if the new host is up to the challenge. It was interesting seeing the way Fox News reacted to Jon Stewart's retirement because everyone there knew that if any Fox News host retired, no one would notice or care.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Of course it wasn't Jon Stewart who created the Daily Show, Craig Kilborn was the first host, and many of the correspondents who worked under Jon Stewart started under Kilborn's term.

Stephen Robinson said...

James Van Hise: I believe that even if Noah's material is as good as Stewart's was, the fact that his demographic is so different might have an impact. Imagine Stewart's debate with Bill O'Reilly about white privilege but with Noah as the host. His ability as a working-class white to speak bluntly on race can't be underestimated.

Noah is also conventionally attractive in ways that Stewart wasn't. You could give all of Woody Allen's early standup material to Steve Martin and it wouldn't work as well for that reason.

John Oliver fits the Stewart demographics in all ways *except* that he doesn't come from blue-collar America like Stewart.

Albert Giesbrecht: Yes, I wonder what Lizz Winstead thought of Colbert's implication that Stewart "hired" him (he actually predated Stewart on the show). However, in fairness, when we talk about THE DAILY SHOW, we're talking about what Stewart turned the show into. With Kilborn, it was basically an extended version of WEEKEND UPDATE. When I first saw Stewart's DAILY SHOW (not really until 2007 as I didn't have cable), my immediate reaction was WOW! This is what WEEKEND UPDATE *could* have been.

D. McEwan said...

You do realize don't you, Orwell, that the problem was with you not Jon Stewart?

"Cap'n Bob said...
Who's Jon Stewart?"


Cap'n, quite aside from that response being a very over-used cliche, it merely makes you look out of touch, insular and ignorant? If that's what you're going for, OK.

mmryan314 said...

Jon Stewart will be missed.I actually am wondering what I`ll do to fill in that half hour a day gap. I watch a lot of news programs but always relied, at the end of the day, on watching The Daily Show to help me sort through the BS. Maybe he`ll take the Al Franken route. It would be nice to see.

Anonymous said...

So, if someone doesn't care for Jon Stewart's style he has a problem, not just an opinion. And if someone says, "Who's John Stewart," implying he doesn't think he's quite the treasure some consider him, he is 'out of touch, insular and ignorant." Those are strong words, bordering on intolerant and judgmental.

gottacook said...

Stephen Robinson:
"Stewart's final show reminded me of Letterman's final LATE NIGHT in '93."
Well, yes, in part because they both had Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to close out the program. (For Late Night they did "Glory Days.")

Mike said...

For Jay Leno's final send-off, we could have a viking funeral pyre. Drive some of Leno's sports cars onto an old ferry, sail it into the middle of a river and set it on fire.

Anonymous said...
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CarolMR said...

24 million people watched the FOX News GOP debate. 3.5 million watched the Jon Stewart finale.

VincentS said...

He mad liberal cool again.

Johnny Walker said...

Having caught up on the comedy of Trevor Noah, I have a feeling that The Daily Show is in VERY good hands. I think they really lucked out with this guy. At first I thought that John Oliver was the only good bet, but I think the TDS is really going to be great under Noah's watch.

Obviously, it was Jon Stewart who helped shape the TDS into what it is today, though. It's surprising that he's leaving when, as Ken says, he's clearly still on top of his game. A good career move for Stewart, though. He'll only be remembered for being a brilliant host -- rather than one that USED to be good.

MikeN said...

No, he doesn't call out everyone. Democrats get a softer target, and frequently he switches the story back to Republican overreaction. Rather than calling out Obama, he visited the White House several times, and was acting as their stenographer for some big stories like Benghazi and the ObamaCare website crash.

Despite all the claims, his intelligence isn't there either. Easy to look intelligent when you are editing out your opponents points. Not knowing that Cat Stevens had approved the fatwa on Salman Rushdie is pretty hard to believe for a comedian of his age(Stewart had invited him to his rally).

Richard John Marce said...

"So, if someone doesn't care for Jon Stewart's style he has a problem, not just an opinion. And if someone says, "Who's John Stewart," implying he doesn't think he's quite the treasure some consider him, he is 'out of touch, insular and ignorant." Those are strong words, bordering on intolerant and judgmental."

No Anonymous (seriously? you can't be bothered to support your comment with your own name?) No, by pointing out Cap'N Bob's comment D. McEwan was not being intolerant or judgmental. D. was pointing out that Cap'N Bob was being out of touch, insular or I'll add, snarky. It's 2015. You're on the fricking internet. If a name of a person pops up in an article and you really don't know who that person is, you Google their name. You search out information on who that person is. You have all the information at your fingertips.

Asking "Who's Jon Stewart" in 2015 means you're either insular or out of touch, or in my opinion, too stupid to look up the information and answer your own question.

donald said...

Clown nose on, clown nose off. Just ask
Quentin Tarantino

MikeN said...

Calling out bullshit or promoting John Kerry?

http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blkerrydailyshow.htm

Is it-- do you-- do you-- is it hard not to take it personally?

Were you or were you not in Cambodia on Christmas Eve?
Are you the number one most liberal senator in the Senate?
Are you or have you ever flip-flopped?
--sort of carpet bombed on-- on the networks, how-- how does that-- how do you counter that?
I'll watch the TV and they'll say-- and this is in advertisements. John Kerry wants our troops to go to war wearing only gabardine. (LAUGHTER) You know? They'll say that you voted against the body armor. And-- and yet they won't talk about what the vote was about and what the battle was.

I've seen he's very shrewd in debates of saying, "Look, this is a choice. It's a-- it's a very easy choice between-- a man who loves-- Fidel Castro and-- (LAUGHTER) and someone who-- loves America." You know? How-- how do you-- do you think you will ever be able to have an honest discussion?

Anonymous said...

Cap'n Bob stop being a dickwad. Your shit ain't funny.

Cheryl Johnson said...

I feel lost without him. When I felt despair about our country - I teach history_ I could count on the show to lift me out of that despair. I know it is not fair to have put this on him (Jon Stewart) and that is a lot of responsibility - but I really will be lost. Without decent investigative journalism in this country - we are in serious trouble. I don't know where to turn.

Anonymous said...

R. J. Marce, you surely don't think Cap'N Bob doesn't know who Jon Stewart is? That is what your comment implies. There are probably a lot of people who don't know who he is, but I seriously doubt if there is ANYONE on this blog (a comedy writer's blog) who doesn't know who Jon Stewart is.

Many people have an almost worshipful attitude about JS, and that's fine. I like him, but I don't think someone who doesn't find him all that charming should be called ignorant or stupid--it's a matter of opinion.

Mike said...

This is no way to address a decorated war veteran like Cap'n Bob. This man fought for his country overseas and suffered through two tours of Bob Hope.

DwWashburn said...

"Letterman was like saying goodbye to Willie Mays during his final days as a Met when he could hardly fit into his uniform. Stewart was like Sandy Koufax retiring in the prime of his career. "

What an excellent summary of Stewart's retirement.

Pete Zucker said...

Stewart and his incredible team constantly it brilliant bullseyes. And yes, when he broke from comedy, he was extraordinary. One of my faves when he did this was grilling Jim Cramer. Here's a guy with his finger on the pulse of the economy -- and he was mesmerized by all the bullshit being fed to him and could not or would not see the cliff the economy was about to plunge from. The guy was full of shit and Stewart called him on it. Talk about how gullible the public is, Cramer is still on the air and popular! Why does anyone with a brain listen to him? Are they blinded by the smoke and mirrors? It's a terribly sad state of affairs, and now that Stewart is gone, Cramer will continue to thrive. Geez.

Tony Collins said...

Something else that's got me curious: Stewart is the executive producer of Larry Wilmore's show (and was executive producer of The Colbert Report too).

Is he going to stay on in that role? It kind of means he will still be in the office every day, which makes me wonder if he will also have a hand in The Daily Show still too.

Often when a star is also EP of their show, they stop being EP when they stop being the star (for example, Richard Dean Anderson stopped producing Stargate pretty much as soon as he stopped being a regular, and you could really see the change in the show; Anderson as EP made a real difference to the show).

Does anyone know if Stewart will continue acting as producer for either of the shows?