It’s funny. I still remember former SportsCenter anchor Craig Kilborn sitting in The Daily Show host chair, who I sometimes confused with Jay Mohr. Bill Clinton was the focal point for most of the material. Celebrities sat in the couch and participated Kilborn’s hokey trivia segment “5 questions”. I also remember Jon Stewart being a guest on the second to last episode before Kilborn left to take over the Late Late Show for Tom Snyder on CBS. (Kilborn hosted the Late Late Show for 5 years before Craig Ferguson took over for the next 10).
Stewart was promoting the teacher-bodysnatching flick “The Faculty” that starred Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett, which he described as “Dawson’s Creek gone bad.” He was also taking the torch, err phone book(?), being passed on from Kilborn and supposedly firing all the correspondents as well.
“This is The Daily Show, man. Why don’t I draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa for God’s sake? This is The Daily Show. We are just bitches in the wheel of The Daily Show.”
Stewart’s first guest on the new show was Michael J. Fox. They riffed about Fox making out with Heidi Klum on Spin City and how they were the only two people to not see Titanic. Stewart gave him one last “5 Questions” bit, and the next 16 years proved the show only improved from there on.
What began as fake news and celebrity interviews, following a cartoon about crass 4th graders, turned into a reliable resource for honest criticism, brilliant satire, and meaningful discussions. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart reached a younger audience that wasn’t as informed or interested in the regular nightly news. Politicians, public figures, and authors all recognized that and either embraced it…or ignored the warnings were ultimately destroyed by the next broadcast.
It was appointment television and at the same time it wasn’t. Writers, producers, and Stewart himself crammed a lot into just a half hour and yet, with the growth of social media, it was viral content for the entire next day. The viewership on Comedy Central compared to network late night broadcasts was actually very small, but you were likely to hear more about a rant from Stewart than a joke from David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, or even Jimmy Fallon. Stewart wasn’t just commenting on the news, he was also making it.
The joke Stewart made with Kilborn about firing the correspondents made me laugh because his tenure with the show absolutely catapulted the careers of several entertainers. This “vortex” graphic from Wired sums his influence up perfectly for those stars and their projects which have become synonymous with our culture today.
How many of these names will we see in Stewart’s final Daily Show broadcast? Will we get the long “We’ll Meet Again” that wrapped up The Colbert Report, that featured everyone from Big Bird and Jeff Tweedy to Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton? Will his favorite band play him off, like Foo Fighters did for Letterman? On Stewart’s previous MTV Talk Show, his last guest was actually Letterman. Interesting how they both took a bow in 2015, but I digress…
However Jon Stewart chooses to go out, you know it will be the way he wants to….and now your “Moment of Zen”.