The Daily Show famously held the tagline “the most trusted name in fake news” that was a parody of CNN’s own slogan. Though Jon Stewart and his writers meant it as a jest, his series really was the best, most important figure in dissecting current events. He turned a series that initially began as a lampoon of typical news series into a full on satire that tackled the pandemonium of the Bush years, the mayhem of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the 2008 financial crisis, and the general discourse causes by news channels such as FOX News. The Daily Show wasn’t just a comedy show, it was a full-fledged satire that became the voice of reason in the chaos of the political world.
The world, unfortunately, is still as chaotic as ever, as Stewart put it Wednesday night in a segment called “The Daily Show: Destroyer of Worlds,” which parodied the idea that Stewart really had changed anything, using ISIS and FOX News’ hosting of the first Republican debate as examples. But The Daily Show really did create change: in 2004, Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire and his assertion that the series was “hurting America” convinced CNN to cancel it, in 2009, Jon’s interview with Jim Cramer revealed CNBC’s responsibility in giving faulty advice during the Wall Street meltdown, and in 2010, Stewart’s condemnation of Congress for slashing a bill set to help veterans resulted in the government eventually passing it. Even though Stewart may deny it, The Daily Show really did help improve the world and shine some light in this vast darkness.
Thursday’s night’s episode, the show’s finale (brought to you by Arby’s), was a tribute to The Daily Show’s rich, nearly seventeen year-old history, featuring nearly every correspondent that has worked alongside Stewart, from the series’ earliest years such as Mo Rocco and Vance Degeneres, contributors like Lewis Black and John Hodgman, and those who have become international stars including Steve Carell and John Oliver (and any conception of bad blood between Wyatt Cynac and Stewart was dispelled by the former’s appearance). The segment capped off with Stephen Colbert, who, in an unscripted moment, delivered a touching, truly tearful tribute to his former employer:
We owe you…because we learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, and how to treat people with respect. You were infuriatingly good at your job, okay. And all of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man.
Stewart then followed up with a piece noting the rigorous work and effort about the production crew in the style of GoodFellas (featuring a cameo by Scorsese himself), revealing how big The Daily Show family really is. Alongside South Park, The Daily Show turned Comedy Central into a cable powerhouse that revealed the importance that satire has on the world, that no matter the circumstance, comedy can make the darkness tolerable.
In the show’s last editorial segment, Stewart detailed the amount of bullshit we sift through in our day-to-day live, be it as a disguise, trickery, or dickeshness. In Stewart’s own words, “Bullshit is everywhere… (but) bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance—and it’s also pretty fun.” That idea sums up The Daily Show’s general idea of standing for yourself and calling people out on their lies and hypocrisy. Following that monologue was a performance by Bruce Springsteen, playing “Land of Hope and Dreams” and “Born to Run” to all of The Daily Show’s employees, past and present. There will never be a satire quite like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ever again, one that’s as cutting, biting, and funny. Farewell Jon.