Early in his 16-year run as America's only acknowledged fake news anchor, Jon Stewart expressed appreciation for being able to "sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks." It would soon become clear he was no ordinary class cutup--or late-night television host.
Love him or hate him, Stewart leaves Comedy Central's The Daily Show as one of the most gifted political satirists the nation has seen in generations. He has been an influential, if unlikely, voice in the nation's dialogue and a primary source of news and commentary for millions, including a generation of younger viewers who might otherwise have tuned out politics.
Over the years, Stewart and his writing staff would serve as a national memory, readily bringing up damning video clips of political leaders contradicting themselves and spinning like weathervanes. It was a brutally effective technique, using humor to shed light on dishonesty that other media--easily distracted by shiny objects--failed to catch.
Unlike much of late-night TV, Stewart's humor was pointed and often left a mark.
Conservatives were frequent targets, but Stewart wasn't averse to blasting Democrats as inept or to battering the Obama administration for its failures to fulfill obligations to veterans. He also showed little patience for the strident left, once observing a Moveon.org anniversary as "ten years of making even people who agree with you cringe."
Stewart, occasionally cited in polls as one of America's most trusted "newsmen," is self-effacing about his role. "There's been a form of me around forever," he says of his satire.
True enough. Here's hoping the wisecracks from the back of the country are as funny--and insightful--in the years ahead.
Editorial on 08/06/2015