Saturday, August 08, 2015
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.
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.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM