In case you were somehow unaware, Thursday night is the final episode of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central. He leaves after 16 years of pushing the comedy envelope, and walks away at a moment in political theater that could almost be written just for him.
As Amy Davidson writes at the New Yorker:
Is it because Mitt isn’t running that Stewart had enough? Is it because a Bush and a Clinton are? (“The Daily Show” chyron for the 2012 Republican National Convention was “The Road to Jeb Bush 2016.”) Front-runner implosions are still possible, of the sort that would unleash the sort of ego-driven political free-for-all that Stewart seems uniquely capable of making sense of. He made it clear that he has some brittle feelings about the treatment of Brian Williams. Fine—but none of of those things, one must concede, are of the sort that have flustered Stewart before. Maybe he really does need a break—couldn’t he squeeze one in the form of some long naps before the election starts, then come back?
And New Yorker editor David Remnick writes that “..Stewart’s vaudeville reactions can be ten times as deflating to the self-regard of the powerful as any solemn editorial—and twice as illuminating as the purportedly non-fake news that provides his fuel.”
Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times writes that the show “redefined TV success as a natural fit for social media.”
Endlessly excerptable, “The Daily Show” with its short pointed rants and quick satiric sets was built for social media. Enjoyable in its entirety, it was even more powerful sliced and diced into fun-sized bits, held together by Stewart’s impressive palette of exquisitely precise outrage. Amused, bemused, irate, horrified, he lived to point out all the dangerous, infuriating and occasionally hilarious absurdities that too often pass for politics and culture in America.
From “Indecision 2000,” to his famous takedown of CNN‘s later-cancelled Crossfire in 2004 for “hurting the country,” to his and henchman Stephen Colbert’s 2010 “Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear,” to his relentless exposure of the calculated hypocrisy of Fox News, Stewart has perfected, even outdone contemporary political journalism.
James Poniewozik writes at Time magazine that Stewart’s “real driving ideology was reasonableness, the idea that not every disagreement had to be Armageddon”
There are no term limits on voices of reason, but with another presidency ending—and Colbert retiring his eagle and decamping to CBS—it feels time. The Daily Show’s political-comedy successors will owe a lot to Stewart, not least because so many of them worked on his show. But the cultural momentum is with the likes of former understudy John Oliver, whose polymath essay-rants on HBO’s Last Week Tonight take sides fervently and often end with calls to action, not moments of Zen. Stewart’s replacement, Trevor Noah, is known for lacerating stand-up on racism and has already promised a show that will respond less to cable news than the immense, endless outrage cycle online.
And it looks like there will be a special guest for the final show:
Oh, and over at the aforementioned Fox there’s a small matter of the first televised Republican debate of the cycle, Thursday night in Cleveland. It could be the network’s highest-ever rated broadcast, but regardless of how much of a trainwreck it turns out to be, something will be missing, since Jon Stewart won’t be around to skewer it.
Finally, Thursday is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, a day which forever changed modern warfare. My former colleague Anna Fifield writes at The Washington Post how, “as their numbers dwindle, survivors have a plan to keep memories alive.”
Japanese children do not spend much time learning about World War II at school, with the official curriculum guidelines saying students should understand that the war “caused sufferings to all humanity at large.” A recent poll by the public broadcaster NHK found that only 30 percent of adults could correctly give the date of the Hiroshima attack and even fewer knew when the Nagasaki attack happened.