On Thursday night, Jon Stewart will take his final bow as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a post he has held for 16 years and four presidential election cycles.
Stewart’s exit brings to a close an era in which the sardonic comedian became, despite himself, the most trusted man in news. The “angry optimist” who played court jester to the media-political machine and ended up becoming one of its most highly regarded and credible luminaries — much to his exasperation.
Although he often deprecated himself as a spitball-throwing silly man of the airwaves, he was anything but inessential. Here are eight reasons why he will be so dearly missed, and why we’re not about to see the likes of him again.
Stewart on Crossfire
Jon Stewart’s 2004 appearance on CNN’s Crossfire turned out to be the death knell of the show. Stewart appeared on the long-running liberal-conservative rock-em-sock-em sideshow at the height of its hysterical election coverage to beg them to dial down the infotainment antics and return to informing the American public. The show, he said, was not so much bad, as it was “hurting America.”
“Stop. Stop stop stop stop hurting America. And come work for us… see the thing is, we need your help. Right now you’re helping the politicians and corporations. […] You’re partisan… whaddya call it? Hacks.”
In a decidedly unamused tone, Stewart accused the pundits of failing in their responsibility to the public discourse: “We need help from the media and they’re hurting us.”
Three months later, CNN canceled the show.