Random Thoughts on the End: Another Goddamn Jon Stewart Tribute

1. The Rude Pundit remembers when Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show because he had been thoroughly enjoying the program with Craig Kilborn hosting (Colbert and Carell were already correspondents) and was a bit pissed at this pretender to the louche, smarmy Kilborn's seat. Stewart was an MTV stooge, another celebrity blow job giver, and a decent stand-up comic. When Stewart finally settled into his role, when he took the show as his own and molded it into the truth-telling, Swiftian, Rabelaisian, Twainian, Carlinian machine it became, no viewer, including this one, ever thought about Kilborn again.

2. To this day, the Rude Pundit remembers the episodes during the 2000 election national nightmare clusterfuck, when Stewart said, "You know, when we named this 'Indecision 2000,' we were joking." It was a perfect moment, when the surreal reality we were living exceeded the possibilities of satire and the wave of ludicrous actions just had to be surfed. And The Daily Show rode it deftly, hilariously, and meaningfully, becoming the only damn news show, fake or not, to fully embrace the absurdity of the greatest nation in the history of forever not being able to rationally decide who the hell was leading it.

3. When the BBC interviewed the Rude Pundit for some goddamn bizarre reason after Stewart announced his retirement, they asked him for moments that he'll remember. He said that two came to mind. One was the first show back after the 9/11 attacks, when the persona dropped and a Jersey guy mourned for his adopted city. The other was more recent. Yeah, Stewart just mocked the way online new sites declare that he "eviscerated" or "destroyed" one thing or other when, really, it was just a few good jokes. But when he took on Glenn Beck, with the chalkboard, ludicrous glasses, and strange gestures, he genuinely took apart one of the most dangerous men in the media, ultimately helping to drive Beck underground.

3a. When John McCain stopped making regular appearances, it was a bit sad. Stewart humanized McCain in a way few have ever been able to.

4. Stewart dated the roommate of a friend when they were all students at William and Mary. The friend said she couldn't watch The Daily Show because "That's just Jon Leibowitz, who'd sit in our room, smoke dope, and make jokes all the time." (Just some trivia.)

5. Many people on the left were pissed off at Stewart and Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear just before the 2010 midterm elections. What they missed was that it was a hilarious prank, performed on a grand scale. Whatever sincerity Stewart pushed at the end, with the whole clumsy Lincoln Tunnel metaphor, was undermined by the giant, rather brilliant "Fuck you" that had come before. If you were upset that it didn't create a groundswell to turn the tide of the Republican wins in the midterms, then you weren't in on the joke. It was meant to mock conservative rallies and Tea Party gatherings, not make you feel better about the nation.

6. Stewart was never our crusader. If he was going to change things, it would be on a small scale, by bringing attention to issues like veterans' rights and 9/11 responders' health. He was our pressure valve, but his Daily Show wasn't meant to be cathartic, even though sometimes it was. It was meant to make you angry, really fucking angry, that shit was going this way. The problem was, as it always has been, that people are notoriously difficult to move to action. The best comparison the Rude Pundit can come up with is Bertolt Brecht, the German playwright. Brecht wanted his plays to enrage people into action at the injustices of the world, not just enjoy a nice time at the theatre. The problem was that the masses never left Mother Courage calling for an end to war. And people left Threepenny Opera humming "Mack the Knife," not ready to attack the capitalist pigs. So, of course, Stewart was, as he professed, just a comedian. Except when he wasn't.

7. Despite what he keeps telling us, "Jon Stewart" is dead after tonight, as much as "Stephen Colbert" died when that host's host moved on to the great network in the sky. Whatever Stewart does after, his persona of Daily Show host is gone. What we lose in that is perhaps more deep than the humor, incisive and broad, and the social critique. We lose a way to frame the world, even if that frame was in opposition to Stewart's obvious positions. We lose a way of understanding how we are being manipulated. By then end of his run, Stewart had earned our trust. He went from the smart-ass brother to the father a generation wished they had. "Jon Stewart" is dead. We shall never see his like again.

8. Yeah, yeah, of course, Stewart was partially the product of some amazing writing by his staff, and he surrounded himself with a terrific supporting cast.

9. Full disclosure: The Rude Pundit knows and has great affection for Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, who now is fucking shit up with Lady Parts Justice, as well as being buds with a writer on the show.

10. Man, John Oliver is really something now, isn't he?