Tonight comedy, television, news, and politics will all be losing an important and meaningful entity when Jon Stewart hosts his final episode of The Daily Show. With The Colbert Report already gone and John Oliver only around once a week, the position of being the nation’s daily check and balance on hypocrisy and absurdity, especially those in the worlds of media and politics, will remain empty. And while we have newcomer Trevor Noah stepping up to the plate, his version will likely be a different take on The Daily Show. We lament that Jon Stewart’s work over the last sixteen years will no longer fulfill its most important job.
In an era of partisan divide comparable only to post-Civil War American Reconstruction, future generations are going to look back and wonder how we could have allowed things to get so bad. Inaction and ineptitude aren’t an exclusive trait to this segment of American history, so eventually things will get better, and our descendants will ask how we could have ever managed to be such a mess and why we couldn’t figure it out.
Fortunately, we will have a record to show we knew things weren’t going well, and that record will be the collection of episodes from Jon Stewart’s show. This is not to say that Stewart had all the answers, or that we have always proposed the right solutions to the problems at hand, but that we recognize that we have them and want to fix them. The Daily Show will be a reminder that we did recognize the rancor and destructive dialogue (seen in both parties) that prevented us from being a better country. Hopefully, it will show that these problems started to be solved because people from across the political spectrum didn’t sit idly by in silence.
Jon Stewart has hosted one of the smartest shows of our generation, making us laugh while holding our collective feet to the fire. He’s a great comedian who became the voice of the frustrated and bewildered. His Daily Show has filled a lot of roles in Stewart’s time in the host’s chair, but someday he’ll do something much more important for us: he’ll let our grandkids know that we weren’t all clueless, and that we were better than we may have shown.
Oh, and that we had a great sense of humor. It’s actually just as important that they knew we were really funny.
What do you think Jon Stewart’s legacy will be? Are future generations going to give us credit for being smarter than we appeared, or weep that our social conscience was the exclusive domain of comedians? Tell us in the comments.