There has been no shortage of think pieces and heartfelt appreciations for Jon Stewart and his nearly 17 years spent behind the desk at The Daily Show. But rather than present yet another appraisal of all the hard work that has gone into making a satirical news program one of the most potent voices with regard to maintaining the integrity of the actual news, it seemed appropriate to approach Stewart’s final show in a manner more in keeping with how he and his crew presented the farewell: as a celebration of the people who helped make it happen nearly 2,600 times.
It was hard to say what approach Stewart would take for his final show. The episodes leading up to the farewell were filled with top-tier comedians like Amy Schumer and Denis Leary, while Louis C.K. took the spot as Stewart’s final guest. Knowing that the format of the episode would be different, on account of it being extended for obvious reasons, there was a brief moment when it seemed as though Stewart and his crew might actually approach it like any other show, this time covering the Republican debate as they normally would.
While it would have been a bold stroke for the series to go out doing what it did best (especially given that the debate would have provided plenty of fodder for jokes), the segment (because it was filmed before the debate ended) instead turned into a charming cavalcade of current and past correspondents, many of whom have Stewart and The Daily Show to thank for ostensibly launching their careers.
Take a look at correspondents’ roll call below:
There was only so much room in front of that green screen before people started to be pushed aside or completely obscured – unless you towered over everyone like Jordan Klepper, of course – so naturally, many of the correspondents were filtered into their own smaller segments. Olivia Munn stopped by with a cake to celebrate Stewart’s 70th birthday, while Rob Riggle showed up to try and “protect” Stewart from his enemies striking back. Later, Rob Corddry had time to forget about his brother Nate, before sending the younger comedian back to the trunk of the car, where he was told to wait. Even Larry Wilmore – current host of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – stopped by to rib Stewart about his show being bumped so the farewell could run long.
The segments themselves were all charming, as they played to each former correspondent’s comedic strengths, but it was the appearance of John Oliver and, later, Stephen Colbert that were most anticipated.
Oliver and Colbert were the heir apparents to the, well, not throne, but ergonomic swivel chair on wheels behind the now fabled desk, so their appearances made for especially emotional and funny segments. Oliver managed a humorous, not-so-shameless plug of his own news program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver by first launching into a painstakingly detailed description of his first day at The Daily Show. He then compared Last Week to Stewart’s program by saying, “When something’s important, it’s worth taking the time to discuss it in depth. I’m talking 15, 18, even 20 minutes if necessary. Otherwise, what’re you really doing?”
But it was Colbert and the brief return of his Colbert Report persona, complete with a Lord of the Rings metaphor (both the one about Stewart being Frodo, and the one about power being a metaphor for power), who fittingly brought the host to tears. In a touching, off-script moment, Colbert thanked Stewart on behalf of everyone whose career was touched by the comedian, before the whole thing descended into a group hug and, according to Stewart after a return from commercial, some tears.
Take a look at Stephen Colbert’s heartfelt send-off to Jon Stewart:
Stewart even found time for incoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah to stop by and take a few (too many) measurements. But it was the appearance of former Daily Show writer and correspondent Wyatt Cenac – who made headlines recently after revealing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast certain details from an alleged shouting match between he and Stewart in 2011, stemming from the exception Cenac took to a racially charged impression – that rendered the audience almost silent.
There was no avoiding the elephant in the room, but still, the two managed a nice segment in which Stewart asked, “You good?” And Cenac replied, “Yeah, I’m good. You good?” There is probably a lot more to be said about both the 2011 incident and the relationship between the two comedians, but there was something about the brevity of the moment that made the exchange seem more genuine.
With emotions running high, the episode took a break for a peek inside The Daily Show, paying tribute not only to the many talented individuals working behind the scenes, but also working in a nice homage to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas – which the director himself took umbrage with in a funny cameo.
Take a look at Jon Stewart’s trip inside The Daily Show:
It wouldn’t be a proper episode of The Daily Show – let alone a farewell to the man who shaped it into what it is today – if Jon Stewart wasn’t given the opportunity to have one final monologue. And for his conclusive address to the studio audience and everyone watching at home, he chose to discuss “bullshit.” The segment was a fitting way to encapsulate everything that Stewart and The Daily Show have stood for during the past 16 years.
Kudos to Stewart’s team for their nod to the internationally important news story regarding the escalating tensions between rappers Drake and Meek Mill (and toe Stewart for claiming he has no idea what it meant), when, really, the moment worked as a funny reminder that the best defense against the garbage being slung around in the 24-hour news cycle and via various institutions is and will always be vigilance.
It’s actually an extraordinary speech that deserves to be passed around and listened to more than once.
See Stewart’s final address below:
We will have to wait to see what changes are in store for The Daily Show, now that Stewart has departed. As such, it will be interesting to find out whether or not Noah will keep the Moment of Zen segment – itself a holdover from previous host Craig Kilborn’s days behind the desk – as the show’s traditional sign-off.
If last night’s moment is indeed the last, then it is fitting that Stewart renamed it “My Moment of Zen,” before Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took to the stage, saying, “This is by request of the man himself.” Apparently, the man – i.e., Stewart – requested the band’s 1999 song ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ which ended with the band seguing into the final verse of ‘Born to Run.’
It wound up being a great moment shared by the cast, crew, and the audience, as Stewart gladly accepted Max Weinberg’s gift of his drum sticks, before taking to the microphone one last time to simply say, “Thank you. Good night.”
Here’s The Daily Show’s Final Moment of Zen, or Stewart’s “My Moment of Zen”:
Frankly, the farewell to Jon Stewart was a great tribute to the comedian, but also to all the people who have helped make this show the institution it has become. We can’t say anything other than: There will never be anything quite like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on television again.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah premieres Monday, September 28 on Comedy Central.
Photos: Comedy Central