Last night, a teary eyed Jon Stewart bid farewell to The Daily Show after 16 years at the helm. Over his career, the show earned two Peabody awards and 18 Primetime Emmy Awards, but more importantly, it transformed the way people receive the news. While coming from a comedic and entertainment angle for the news, Jon Stewart managed to convey passion and facts to the viewers. No longer do people need to watch MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News to feel informed.
Stewart’s impact on the US is hard to quantify, but he certainly raised the level of discourse. While it may be hard to believe that a comedian could make an actual, beneficial impact on discussions and policy within a country, Jon Stewart did it. Some segments hit harder than others, but as a whole the “fake news” show managed to become a trusted source for information and current events. When people are willing to discuss the issues raised by Stewart, the national dialogue increases and people become more active in their communities, and subsequently things change for the better. In the quick hitting news world of today, he certainly did not cover everything, but simply showed people ways that they can discover for themselves. On his last show Stewart spoke to this, “Bullsh-t is everywhere… I say to you tonight friends, the best defense against bullsh-t is vigilance.”
Perhaps the reason he became so successful was that he was unabashedly himself. As someone with liberal ideologies, Stewart never shied away from saying what he thought was necessary; he often pointed out the hypocrisy of Fox News, the craziness of certain ideas, or simply showed why some things are just plain wrong.
However, while all that certainly made the show enjoyable and watchable, the best part was Stewart’s demeanor. Over the 16 years Stewart grew as a person and by the end he was cynical, but with quite a bit of hope. As Steven Colbert (a former correspondent for Stewart) said, “You were infuriatingly good at your job… and we are better people for having known you.” An incredibly intelligent man that did not have a super inflated ego, Stewart managed to endear fans to him and used that as an avenue for his dialogue.