Jon Stewart, host of the Emmy-winning, wildly popular The Daily Show on Comedy Central, announced to his throngs of viewers and fans that he is stepping down from the catbird’s seat. It was close to 17 years ago when a relatively unknown comedian took the reins of the once-fledgling show from scorned ESPN anchor Craig Kilborn.
Today, many of his fans are mourning the pending loss…
“I don’t have any specific plans,” Mr. Stewart said, addressing the camera at the end of his show, at times seeming close to tears. “Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head. I’m going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people.”
That show has been the launching pad for many pop culture juggernauts like Steve Carell, John Oliver, Rob Riggle, Larry Wilmore, and that Stephen Colbert fellow. It has been “must see TV” for people fatigued by the rubbernecking punditry on every “news” channel. For many of us, it has been the only source of comic relief from the always-exasperating world of politics.
Yes, a fake news show has been the best real news show on TV for the better part of a decade. What does that say about journalism?
Stewart, 52, has become a standard-bearer because, quite frankly, no other serious national journalists can take that mantle…and he’s a former standup comic. His satire has become a respite in a sea full of anchors who would rather stand in a bully pulpit (on any station out there) than sit at a desk and report the news.
When was the last time you actually watched the traditional news? Ferguson? NYPD? The 2014 Midterms?
In most PR agency offices, the TVs are always on…with the volume on “mute.” Why? Because headlines matter, not opinions. But everyone listens to Stewart’s fake news because people want education without so much opposition. They need insight without having to go to the outhouse. As polarized as this country is, people want to make up their own minds instead of being drilled with whatever fogs the minds of others.
Jon Stewart takes a common man approach and has no problem calling out politicians, the media, and the leaders of every other organization since the rest of us can’t do it. His writers are brilliant. His producers are shrewd. But Stewart is the glue that holds it all together.
The rest of the media is left wondering, “How’d he do that?”
Journalism is in a bad way if a comedian is clearly the best it has to offer. Maybe the grand poobahs of CNN, FOX, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and even Fusion and BuzzFeed should get together, have a seance and ask the angered ghosts of its own Mount Rushmore (Murrow, Cronkite, Jennings, Koppel, along with Hearst, Thompson, and Pulitzer) and with its chief ushers (Brokaw, Lehrer, Rather, Walters) about (re)gaining the respect Stewart enjoys.
Or perhaps those bigwigs should all ask for a loan and hire some gainful PR. Stranger things have happened…like a former bartender and standup comic leading the news business.