News hasn’t always been the same as satire. But after 17 years of both these things being delivered in such seamless tandem, you could be forgiven for thinking so.
Jon Stewart announced last night that he was calling a largely unexpected halt to his stint as host of The Daily Show, paving the way for someone, presumably younger and with a bigger axe to grind, to take his place. It’s difficult to recall a time when the adolescent and college demographics only had the same jaded, anodyne sources of news as the generations they were usurping. But such a time did exist, and Stewart was all too aware of this. And so he began his crusade against…well everything, really. Nothing was off limits; be it left or right, controversial or boring, notorious or unheard of, black or white.
Stewart had the perspective and the delivery to talk with genuine authority about issues gripping the nation, informing people about aspects of far-reaching topics that the mainstream news refused to cover. The American discourse (and beyond) was shaped by Stewarts forthright, but responsible views on subjects which he felt were not being reported correctly elsewhere. But yet, as his fan-base grew and his influence soared, his commitment never wavered. He continued to lead the charge against Fox News’ malevolent agenda, the social erosion from interracial tension and the corporate grip on American policy.
For instance, take a look at him single-handedly taking a CNN conservative news show off the air – by appearing on it himself and slating the hosts.
And this was child play for Stewart, compared to his sparring matches with the likes of Bill O’ Reilly (essentially America’s George Hook, without the rugby knowledge), from which he invariably came out on top. His first show after the 9/11 attacks will linger long in the memory of many Americans who looked to him to make sense of what had happened. Of course, he couldn’t, nobody could, and he was at pains to stress that.
Just a few clips there, there are countless many more milestones of the Daily Show machine scattered around YouTube for your own entertainment.
The show became a breeding ground for some of the hottest comedians and actors working today. Stewart championed the likes of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Ed Helms, Steve Carrell and Demetri Martin to name just a few. He leaves the show having pioneered it’s growth as cultural behemoth and sanctuary for reason in a medium where’s there’s precious little remaining.
The reasons for Stewarts decision to step down are largely unknown, nor are they relevant. His next career path is likely to be down the road of a serious film maker; but what he’s done for political voice in America, and where it might have stood without him, should never be underestimated.