While fans prepare both to share a last laugh and to possibly break out the tissues, let’s take stock of what we’ll miss most about the comic turned anchor at the helm of the show.
There is no shortage of impression-worthy figures in the American political system (or the 24-hour news cycle, for that matter), and Stewart, 52, always owned the opportunity to take on a new character. Some of his funniest moments on the show came from his spot-on affectations. His pucker-lipped Donald Trump, Southern Belle-esque Senator Lindsey Graham, condescending Fox News personality Glenn Beck and frequent slips into a generic Jersey mobster were unforgettable moments we’re already missing. But even his top-notch Woody Allen pales in comparison to the crowning jewel of Stewart’s impressions: The squinty-eyed, George W. Bush impersonations that may have been the best part of 43’s presidency.
His Fearless Confrontations
As Stewart increasingly became – against the show’s intentions – one of the more trusted voices on television, he fearlessly confronted personalities he believed to be destructive to the American public. Sometimes he’d use humor to criticize, like when he told Fox News “Go F— Yourselves” with the help of a gospel choir, but when a situation called for it, Stewart wasn’t afraid to offer up a sincere, straight-faced skewering. In 2009, Stewart invited Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money, onto the show. Telling Cramer his handling of the economic collapse was “disingenuous at best, and criminal at worst,” Stewart was upfront about his scorn for the host’s brand of financial punditry. Other people on the receiving end of Stewart’s wrath include New York Times reporter Judith Miller and the team at Crossfire.
The Dynamic with His Protégés
The Daily Show has been a major stepping stone for some of the biggest players currently on TV. We have the show’s success under Stewart to thank for The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and it was always special to see Daily Show vets appear alongside Stewart on their old stomping grounds. Before The Colbert Report ended, the banter between the two hosts always ended The Daily Show on a high note. Now without Stewart, we’ve lost the chance for more reunions with ex-correspondents like Steve Carell, Ed Helms and Samantha Bee, whose new TBS talk show will debut later this year.
His Heartfelt Moments
As the host of a comedy show, Stewart had a tough job when it came time to address tragic moments that were gripping the nation. Whether he had to say goodbye to a friend, process the incomprehensible pitfalls of the justice system or comment on the ever-increasing number of shooting massacres across the country, Stewart allowed his vulnerability to connect with and comfort his audience. In what was probably his most difficult monologue during his tenure on the show, Stewart returned to his desk after the 9/11 attacks. “I want to tell you why I grieve, but why I don’t despair,” Stewart told the audience through tears, “this attack happened, it is not a dream. But the aftermath of it, the recovery of it, is a dream realized. Any fool can destroy, but to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen, and people from all over the country rebuilding that is extraordinary. And that’s why we’ve already won.”
His ‘Indecision’ Election Coverage
Probably the most heartbreaking thing about Stewart’s February announcement that he would be departing The Daily Show was the realization that he won’t be on air to sort through the mayhem that is sure to be the 2016 presidential election. From his hilarious handling of the Bush/Gore recount in 2000 to the beginning of his “Democalypse 2016” coverage, Stewart has always been there to help us digest American democracy. The upcoming debates, campaign ads and polling just won’t be the same without the fake newsman’s two cents.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart series finale airs tonight at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.