Film, News & Commentary

There's life after Jon Stewart

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It’s easy to respond to the news that Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show by proclaiming that there will never be another like him. But the truth is that Stewart spent a good portion of his stint broadcasting live from Comedy Central’s World News Headquarters in New York ensuring that when he had to give it up, there would be people in place to continue what he has done for 17  years.
Jon Stewart is to American politics as nobody is to our own. He combines the snappy one-liners of the best show the ABC has ever axed The Roast — with the integrity of Kerry O’Brien and the self-awareness of Lee Lin Chin. For someone so steadfast that he is an entertainer and not a journalist he has done incredible work as a provider of concise, well-reasoned discussion and debate. But as stellar as his body of work has been, it will not be his greatest achievement.
Stewart’s legacy is tied up in the shows that have sprung from The Daily Show beginning a decade ago when Stephen Colbert left The Daily Show to start The Colbert Report. Though Colbert is leaving his post to take over The Late Show from David Letterman, he has been a heavyweight of political satire for the decade-long run of The Report.
Cast members John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) and Larry Wilmore (The Nightly Show­) have also recently left to pursue similar projects. Wilmore has been a very talented member of The Daily Show cast and his recently launched show should be watched with interest.
Even the replacement at The Today Show desk – whoever that might be – will be in many ways another of Stewart’s disciples, perhaps the one to whom he will give the biggest leg-up. The cast, a bunch of fearless and unflinching satirists, will surely outlive Stewart and continue their excellent work.
John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight has been exceptional since its launch in mid-2014, combining research-heavy long-form journalism with a strong grasp of pop-culture and a willingness to use the internet as a tool for social activism, as was demonstrated in an early piece on net neutrality. Oliver’s plea at the end of that segment for young people to use the FCC comment page to change the course of history is basically the ‘America can be great again’ monologue from the first episode of The Newsroom brought into the 21st century.
He’s doing something that is very different to Stewart’s day-by-day scrapping with the forces of political darkness, but the show owes its existence to Stewart’s influence in making political news entertaining for an audience of younger voters who need to be impartially informed.
That will be what’s left behind, after the last reminder to ‘join us tomorrow night at 11’ and the last Moment of Zen, a group of people who want to educate people about difficult issues, show up hypocrites and liars and hold the powerful to account and makes us laugh as they do it.
It is a personal legacy and contribution to political conversation that very few other individuals can hope to match, and one that we should be grateful for. It will be with great sadness that I purchase my last ever multi-pass of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but thanks to his efforts, we can look forward to a political/entertainment future that does not suffer from his absence.
Read Peter Green on Where is Australia’s Colbert? 

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