Jon Stewart exits The Daily Show tonight aloft so many laurels you’d think he was being escorted to the farewell ship of The Lord of the Rings.
But there are three groups whose reaction I await as much as I dread Stewart’s departure.
* The first is Comedy Central. How do you replace a show that was nothing less than a game-changer? Stewart’s 16-year span will be viewed as the 70’s salad days of Saturday Night Live were for scores of ascending stars, including Blues Brothers John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. The Daily Show had something akin in the news brothers, Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert, who have similarly entered new celebrity orbits. Even the show’s B-list reporters, which included Ed Helms, John Oliver and Rob Corddry, made most primetime network comedies look like funeral wakes.
* What about the Democratic National Committee? Stewart was the party’s most recognizable (and influential) advocate outside of Barack Obama. A CBS poll found that 21% of Americans aged 21-29 — the new Democratic Party lifeblood — got the bulk of its news from The Daily Show. Producers may have found a young, hip, millennial-friendly replacement in Trevor Noah. But the show — at least as it skews now, which is D.C.-centric — thrived on a veteran jokester with real political acumen (and razor wire imitation skills).
Who will become the Left’s new beacon? Bill Maher’s ego makes even Progressives wince. Colbert will likely take a more centric tone as he replaces David Letterman on the national late-night front. The Democrats have always benefitted from having a sense of humor (why are the Right’s media spokesdouches — O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. — such angry, pasty blubberers?) Hillary’s presidency is a lock, but DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz would be wise to either champion a new megaphone for younger voters, or convince Stewart to take a more open, direct role with the party.
* Finally, I wonder about Arby’s. Stewart has always had a special spot in his heart for skewering the alleged meat vendor.
No one really knows why. Even Stwewart isn’t sure, confessing that the restaurant chain has always taken its ribbing in good humor. “And they really are wonderful folks,” the comedian once said on air.
Perhaps it’s the name. It sounds like a cartoon sound effect. Maybe it’s a lot easier name to lampoon than Burger King or McDonald’s. The all-time champ, though, is a 24-hour convenience store chain I discovered in Arkansas called Kum & Go. I swear.
Personally, I think Stewart got the idea from The Simpsons (he admits he’s a fan of the funniest sitcom of all-time). He has quoted Homer, welcomed Simpsons guests aplenty, even dropped the occasional ‘D’oh!’
I think he was inspired by a specific episode years ago, where Marge explains why you can’t trust commercials: “Homer, people do all kinds of crazy things in commercials. Like eat at Arby’s.”
Admittedly, I love the near roast beef and cheddar, which likely contains neither. Regardless, they won my heart with August’s official’s HB Commercial of the Month, on self-deprecation alone.
Fare thee well, Jon. Good luck in The Shire.