Too Wong Jew: Thanks For Everything, Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart took over hosting The Daily Show while I was in high school at a time when the internet existed but hadn’t become the platform it is today in which anyone and everyone can make their opinions heard by the world with almost no effort or pre-existing notoriety. Today a twelve year old girl in a Wyoming middle school or an eighty five year old retired vet in Alabama without fame, credit or authority can send their thoughts or views out into the ether of information (for better or worse). For the most part, this wasn’t the case in the late nineties. Blogging was somewhat new. Podcasting, social media and YouTube didn’t exist yet. The only voices we heard on a grand media scale were from established people or companies with the financial means to promote their ideas. We had liberal stand up comedians, there were the SNL skits clumsily commenting on political issues through sketch And I dunno, South Park? However, none of these formats were taken seriously. All of our U.S. and world news was brought to us by professionally accredited sources.
As a teenager and currently as a thirty something, I don’t have the mind type that completely understands the true intricacies of politics or government proceedings but like everyone else, I have my beliefs in what I think are bright or wrong and opinions on social issues. When it came to daily happenings of the world I got my information from local and cable news. It was presented by talking haircuts with the poise and rigidity of a royal corpse with three day rigor mortis. Though, declared to be “just the facts” many of us knew there was more to the stories being relayed to us.
Then, in 1999, along came Jon Stewart. I was a regular fan of The Daily Show while Craig Kilborn was the host, as I was with most things comedy. Stewart was known for his stand up career and hosting a show on MTV interviewing actors, comedians and musicians. No one in the public knew him as the socially conscious, politically minded, liberal master of sway and wit that he is today. At first he hosted the show by the numbers, lightheartedly making fun of the news and its anchors and humorous interviews, fake and otherwise. Gradually the show started to have its own tilt. Over time Jon Stewart and The Daily show became regarded as a powerful editorial for a generation that had grown tired of or had never been interested in the corporate filtered, paper doll nightly news. He altered the plane and in doing so paved the way for all those, like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, who have come after him.
The reason Stewart’s fans are so crestfallen by his departure (and his enemies are rejoicing) isn’t because he’s a nice, funny guy who changed the way we absorb the news. We’re upset because he has been there for us through so many turbulent public events during the last sixteen years. How many of you teared up the day he came back on the air after 9/11 and gave one of the most heartfelt and gut-wrenching monologues ever witnessed? Jon Stewart has been a guide and a beacon, uniting us by planting a post for all of us to assemble and rally around in times of confusion and uncertainty.
I had the privilege of seeing him perform a standup set at The Playhouse in Cleveland about six or so years ago. At the end of his set he told a story. He said “I’m just going to leave you with this.” He talked about walking around his New York neighborhood just a few days after the towers fell. He said he was just wandering around, still in shock over the recent horrors and trying to figure out how, if it were even possible, we could go on. How would we ever be able to go back to normal? He then saw a homeless man he had seen many times before crouched against a wall. He peered a little closer and noticed the man was fervently masturbating. He paused and told us he realized “You know what? I think we’re all going to be alright.” Jon Stewart has left The Daily show. It’s a tragic loss and I don’t know what’s going to happen next but “we’re all going to be alright.”