Yesterday, we said goodbye to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As I’ve been thinking about it this week, I’ve been reminded of a conversation I had with a friend some years ago that was really an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.
We were talking about podcasts and comedy and when speaking in reference to me, he said, “…as someone who cares a lot about comedy-”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean you clearly care a lot about comedy.”
“Yeah… I mean, I guess. You say that like not everyone loves to laugh. Or that it’s a BAD thing.”
“I don’t mean it like that. Not everyone cares about comedy. You follow comedians’ careers?”
“Go to their movie’s opening weekend? Read their books? Watch sitcoms every week and not just the stuff that happens to be on when you turn on the TV?”
“Lauren. Not everyone is like that.”
Which was crazy to me. I understand maybe not having your top 5 comedians at the ready to talk about at a moment’s notice, or a dissertation about how the film Wet Hot American Summer contains almost every genre of comedy… but I just sort of assumed everyone cared about comedy like I did. In my adult life, I have come to understand that it isn’t a universal truth. But I feel like people of my generation really do understand and care a lot about comedy. Jon Stewart has everything to do with this.
Jon Stewart took over the desk at The Daily Show in 1999. I was in my teens. He was fresh faced, sharp, and, even in those early shows, polished with solid jokes. Comedy Central’s website has been playing a “Month of Zen”, marathoning every episode he’s ever done, and I’ve found myself just letting it play in the background while I do housework or make dinner. “SOLID JOKE!” I’ve been yelling back at the TV, whenever he lands something particularly silly or punny.
The Daily Show’s comedy ushered us into the new millennium and reported on truly monumental moments in our lives. National tragedies, historic changes, technology and the evolution of the internet, politics, journalism itself… Jon has spoken about everything under the sun.
He’s done all this through the lens of comedy, which has helped my generation be more informed and connected to the world around us. That’s because his comedy, and his wonderful writers, have made these complicated topics approachable. He has been a reliable and knowledgeable voice. And he has been a constant. Other news venues have changed, folded, or cycled through their talking heads faster than we could keep up with. For 16 years, Stew Beef has been there for us.
Not only has the show developed this trust with his viewers, his correspondents have always been very talented people who have gone on to be some of our comedy elite. We looked to them to laugh and kept following them even after they left.
The Daily Show has so closely blended comedy with our day-to-day lives, I don’t see how someone who has watched this show over the years couldn’t care about comedy. Jon taught us to look at a situation and see what was funny about it. What was absurd. What was crazy. Sometimes we laughed so we wouldn’t cry. Sometimes we laughed and cried anyway. We learned, too, about what makes us human. What connects us to something greater than ourselves.
That’s a lot of the reason why I kept coming back to The Daily Show. It would be easy to just watch the news, including Stewart’s reporting, and be really, really jaded. The difference between the ‘just the facts’ of “real news” and The Daily Show is that Jon helps us believe things are going to be okay. That at the end of the day, while things are scary or tumultuous or just wacky, it’s alright. Because we still have fart jokes. And we still have each other. To tell the fart jokes to.
I’m going to miss Jon. At least the Republican primary field has been a wonderful parting gift for him.
Jon. I can call you Jon, right? After all these years, I think we’d be on a first name basis. You know what I always fantasized about? My interview on The Daily Show. In my head, THAT was my measure of success. I’d save a dozen puppies from a burning building, film my stand-up special “I’m Part of the Problem”, write a book about pizza, and THEN I’d go on The Daily Show to pitch it… and get to talk to you. I’m bummed that’ll never happen. But we had 16 years of you. I guess we can give you back to your loved ones. Or whatever.
But thanks. Thanks for making us laugh. Thanks for the best news team ever. Thanks for introducing a whole generation to the finer points of comedy.
Now, here it is, Jon. Your moment of zen.