“Good satire comes from anger. It comes from a sense of injustice, that there are wrongs in the world that need to be fixed. And what better place to get that well of venom and outrage boiling than a newsroom, because you’re on the front lines.”
The seventies had Burgundy (KIDDING), the eighties had Brokaw, the nineties had Jennings and we, for better or worse, have Jon Stewart. Let’s face it — in the war between entertainment and news, entertainment won, and Jon Stewart became the king of “news-ertainment” and unexpectedly a source for real, honest-to-god news. When Fox News is considered a reliable source of information by millions, people are going to find an alternative, even one that purports to be satirical. And so came The Daily Show.
I know it’s still on the air, but one day it won’t be. One day, The Daily Show will come to an end. Since Colbert is leaving his signature Report for greener, nighttime-ier pastures, it has really hit home for me that Jon Stewart will not always be on the air. It’s strange to think about — I remember The Daily Show the way my parents remember their Walter Cronkite. We turned on The Daily Show instead of KRON7 (the local news station). We laughed at bits about election coverage, or Mr. Stewart’s lament when W. Bush left office, or during Stephen Colbert’s early days, before he went on to stardom. The Daily Show challenged me, it made me think, and it comforted me; I was not the only person completely confused by the world and the way it worked. It was as much a part of my formative years as acne and braces. And I’m willing to bet I am not alone in that sentiment.
We know more about the world than ever before, and the more we know, the more maddening and confusing it is for those of us who pay attention. We live in an age where the banal “reality” of a Hollywood family have made millions, while people are starving to death under a sociopathic dictator just north of my current border (North Korea, not Canada). A time where the average person can tweet about their bowel movements and get 1,000 “favorites,” a time when women are still sold as objects, a time when people have been trampled to death on the aptly-named madness that is “Black Friday,” and a time when people still die from drinking unclean water. A time when so many things are controlled by so few people, it’s difficult to not feel a little out of control.
What I’m trying to say is that our times are more than a little absurd. The Daily Show knows that. Sometimes everything is terrifying and infuriating and completely defeating. Then there’s nothing left to do but laugh at the craziness of the world we live in. Jon Stewart knows that too.
So what does a future look like without Jon Stewart and The Daily Show?
Although there are plenty of American political satirists, none of them have the audience of The Daily Show. It could soldier on after Jon Stewart departs — John Oliver was an entertaining replacement while Mr. Stewart was filming his movie. But to be frank, I don’t think the show will last long after its iconic anchor leaves. Which is not a bad thing! Losing The Daily Show will create a vacuum, allowing new voices to be heard. Maybe they won’t broadcast in the traditional format, i.e. on the tube, but political satire will survive. There is always a demand for comedy, but more than that, there is always a demand for the truth.