Jon Stewart announced that his last Daily Show will be on August 6. He says he's getting off the stage before the 2016 Presidential race heats up, to give his successor a shot at getting established and something to talk about in doing so.
I've noticed a change in tone in Jon's opening monologues lately. Maybe it goes back to his taking a break to produce and direct a movie last summer, but it's been really apparent in the past couple of months. He has given up his impressions (Senator Lindsey Graham as a Southern Belle with "the vapors" was hilarious) for simple, straight-up, exposure of veniality and hypocrisy. Instead of a laugh line at the end, he delivers a coup de grace line and says "We'll be right back." His friend and colleague from their stand-up comedy days, Dennis Leary, said "Eventually, Jon will just be a little old Jewish man, ranting angrily to himself in the corner." Or something like that.
Stephen Colbert made me laugh more, and harder. Colbert was a delight to anyone delighted by language and its uses. But Jon has connected dots that needed to be connected, and provided more insights and a-ha moments. He is the best political satirist of the modern era, and I say this as one who well-remembers Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer from the early 1960's. Or Bill Maher's political standup from the 1980's, before he became strident. For that matter, I've read Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain. The only political satirist in Jon's league, in my opinion, is Twain. Let's call it a tie for first place in the Hoisted-By-Their-Own-Petards category.
Where did this brilliance come from? The writing and on-screen "reporter" teams that Stewart established at The Daily Show, for sure. But let me suggest another. It may be that, as a youth, Jon bought into the same civics textbook version of American representative democracy that I did. He wouldn't give leaders, or political reporters, a pass. He held them to the reality-based, common sense, standards we all should hold our leaders and media--and ourselves--to. Like Pogo, he insisted that "We have met the enemy--and he is us."
Thankyou for a great run, Jon.
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