Current Mood: Missing Jon Stewart

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The world’s on fire.

We all agree on that, right? Between the election, the pandemic, the racial problem, the Supreme Court battle, and the looming economic crisis, things are just on fire out here nowadays.

2020 has been one consistent hellfire of a year, from murder hornets and the weak music releases to the death of Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman.

We’re all going to need a heavy drink when all of this is over (some of us have already gotten a head start, beginning our burgeoning alcoholism in early March) – but that doesn’t mean historically it’s the worst year we’ve ever had.

The 2008 crisis, the 2013 government shutdown. 9/11. The Ebola crisis in 2014, or any number of the hurricanes that have wrecked our shores. We’ve been through horrid years before. The difference was, it was easier to laugh because we had truly great comedians, absurdist voices to bring us through the dark until we found the light. Most notably? Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1999-2015) was the predominant political comedy show of the modern era. For sixteen long years, its host was a comforting sight, a consistently hilarious satirist who would digest the day’s news for us. Four nights a week, he tore apart biased news organizations and dissected politicians’ lies, until we felt like the world was fair again.

Not to imply that today we don’t have decent late-night talk shows still airing throughout all the misery. Yes, Jimmy Fallon over at The Tonight Show is a joke and Seth Meyers remains the host with the creepiest eyes ever (though his comic book love is pretty cool), but there are a few strong hosts, many of them students of Jon Stewart themselves.

Take John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight over on HBO, as an example. He’s a Stewart disciple, who landed his own show gig after guest-hosting The Daily Show in Stewart’s absence for six weeks during the summer of 2013. There’s Samantha Bee, host of Full Frontal, as well as Stephen Colbert, who isn’t nearly as funny on The Late Show as he was on The Colbert Report but is still good for a laugh.

None of this to even mention The Daily Show’s current host, South African comedian Trevor Noah, who has ushered the long-running program into a new, younger, fresher era since the fall of 2015.

That being said, these great comedians’ talents aside, none of them are Jon Stewart. None of them bring the same laughs, nor the same political edge and analysis. In the case of Trevor Noah specifically, none of them could hope to fill Stewart’s ever-large comedic shoes.

It’s quite simple: you can throw as many Adam Driver jokes or Trump tweets in your segment as you want, it’s simply not the same as the original comedian, who would flame the GOP, Arby’s, and himself all in one bit.

But was Jon Stewart the greatest to ever do it in political comedy due to luck, just arriving at the right time (at the turn of the century) in order to garner critical and commercial success?

More likely is that he brought exactly what America needed, right when it needed it. He saw just how outdated and out-of-touch our traditional media was in receiving the 24/7 news cycle being propagated by CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. So, he created a new style of show.

Taking over from the less political Craig Kilburn in the late 1990s, Stewart revamped The Daily Show into a cutting, satirical political comedy show that incinerated fraudsters and poor policies. It covered the 2000 presidential election with scorn and derision, one matching many Americans’.

Then came 9/11, where an emotional Stewart’s impassioned monologue completely summed up the feelings of many New Yorkers in the aftermath. This is where Stewart went from being a funny fresh liberal voice to the voice of the modern American generation, at once funny and heartfelt.

It was followed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, demonstrating Jon Stewart’s versatility in tackling issues of foreign policy, domestic policy, environment, healthcare, immigration, and more.

Over these next few years, he became one of television’s biggest hits, as evidenced by his 24 Peabody Award wins. Along with Chappelle’s Show, he ushered in a golden age for Comedy Central, and somewhere along the process became an ingrained part of the culture he so frequently lambasted.

Polls regularly showed him as being considered more trustworthy by most viewers than CNN, while his constant political takedowns of policymakers made him a favorite among the disenfranchised politically-minded youth.

The show’s war on the disinformation coming out of FOX News only helped, as Stewart and his writers spent years taking on every lie from America’s #1-rated news network.

He was like the Avatar, maintaining balance in this screwed-up world we all live in. And just like the Avatar, when the world needed him most…he vanished.

Stewart retired in August 2015, citing a desire to spend more time with family, and was promptly replaced by Trevor Noah that fall.

And yet, at the end of the day, when I see how absurd everything seems nowadays – I mean, seriously…murder hornets? – I tend to always think the same thing: I miss Jon Stewart.

I miss his voice, his reasoned takes, his ridiculous accent showcasing his New York Jewish roots. I especially miss his ability to take the unfunny and make it palatable.

Having The Daily Show with Jon Stewart back on wouldn’t change the situation or anything; as he himself once said, “We couldn’t stop the Iraq War, we tried. I couldn’t even get Jim Kramer off the air.” But without a doubt, it’d provide a much-needed laugh, a critical analysis that’s been sorely missing.

Perhaps most importantly, Stewart’s reasoned voice and empathetic sense of humor, much like it did after 9/11 and during the Great Recession, would remind us all that we’re not crazy, and we’re not alone.

#JonStewart #TheDailyShow #LateNightTV

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