I know I am going to miss Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. While I am not an avid viewer of his semi-satirical/sometimes semi-serious ‘news’ offering, I am a semi-regular one and have been for years. I am going to miss him because in this fucked-up world the sanity of a Stewart is needed. And he is the best there is in that regard.
Stewart did not originate the concept of the satirical news broadcast. There are items in that regard that go back to the days of radio. Will Rogers did stuff in the 1930s that would pass muster on the Daily Show. On television you can certainly go back to That Was The Week That Was in the 1960s for a kind of progenitor. In the UK in the early 1980s when I lived there, Not the Nine O’Clock News (the program that basically spawned Rowan Atkinson, did a fine mock news format. And even currently there is Bill Maher, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert (spawned by the Stewart show). All of these are worthy, but all lack some of the special and rather indefinable charm of Stewart. They also lack some of his genuine wit. He’s a funny guy.
For me Stewart works best of all. In the first place he tries to be balanced and he attempts to not be rude or gratuitously argumentative and confrontational with guests with whom he might not agree politically. Some of his interchanges with John McCain have been agreeable and entertaining – and intelligent – and McCain, despite his flaws and the Palin thing is not a stupid guy. This is where I part company with Maher. He is often rude and disdainful of opinions he doesn’t agree with and I don’t need that sort of rancor with something that is at heart an ‘entertainment’, and Stewart never lost sight of the fact that he is at heart an entertainer. Witness his rip-offs of old Johnny Carson schtick, for which Stewart is unapologetic. He actually would have been a worthy replacement for Johnny rather than that unfunny bozo with the big jaw who got the job.
I like John Oliver very much, and he can be both thoughtful and terribly funny. I’ve never much warmed to Colbert. Something too private school about his demeanor and I am sorry he was chosen as the replacement for the brilliant (to me) Letterman.
Actually Jon would have been good with the Letterman gig. And I’ll just have to give Colbert a chance.