It is said that to find out what is really going on in the world, one need only look in the comics section of the newspaper. There is lots of intelligent commentary, satire and social criticism to be found –- sometimes better than what is in the rest of the paper.
The same can be said about “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” which ends its 16-year run on Comedy Central on Thursday (Aug. 6). Though often steeped in silly sight gags, odd noises and sophomoric humor, the program famous for presenting fake news was the smartest on TV and always had something serious to say –- sometimes more so than the “real” news outlets. And certainly funnier.
And it was the mainstream media that was probably his favorite target. Stewart took on the broadcast, cable, online and print media with equal zeal, especially when he felt they weren’t doing their jobs. Witness his skewering of the coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War and how few outlets seemed to question the claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. No news organization was safe from his scathing and often hilarious criticism then.
He also loved to expose hypocrisy, whether it was from a journalist, a public official or a captain of industry. One of his favorite techniques was to juxtapose footage of what someone is saying now with what they said earlier.
As an interviewer, Stewart came across as erudite, quick on his feet and ever willing to engage in thoughtful discussion. And if a heavier discussion ran longer than its allotted time slot, it would be made available in its entirety on “The Daily Show” website. Often, they were enlightening gems of discourse.
More importantly, he was never disrespectful to his guests, no matter where they fell on the political spectrum or whether he agreed or disagreed with them. Stewart may lean left politically but he gave conservatives, moderates and liberals their chance to speak their piece.
“The Daily Show” also saw some first-rate talent come through during his watch. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and Aasif Mandvi all went on to TV or movie careers following their time with Stewart.
Stewart was always the first to admit that he’s not a journalist, that he’s a stand-up comedian by trade. But as a watchdog of the media — an industry that is charged with watching over government and thus ensuring a free society — he was invaluable, both as a commentator and a source of laughter.
He will be missed.