On January 11, 1999, the world was a different place than it is now — Bill Clinton was still president (and about to be impeached), there were no smartphones, and a comedian named Jon Stewart took the reigns of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. The satirical talk show turned him into an iconic media critic and one of the hottest destinations on late night TV. And, looking back at Jon Stewart's first episode of The Daily Show in 1999, there were some seeds of greatness already there. Comedy Central is currently streaming episodes of Stewart hosting The Daily Show until the comedian's final bow on Aug. 6 and, fortunately for us, that includes clips from his very first episode.
Before taking over The Daily Show, Stewart did stand-up regularly in New York City and eventually landed a talk show on MTV called The Jon Stewart Show, which got canceled in 1995. He even had some roles in movies like Adam Sandler's Big Daddy and the teen horror flick The Faculty. Years later, Craig Kilbourn vacated the host chair on The Daily Show and Stewart took the seat, where he would sit and deliver hilarious, spot-on insights about the news media, politics, and the world for the next 17 years. Michael J. Fox was the celebrity guest on Stewart's debut episode and the reviews were pretty positive. At the time, The New York Times' Peter Keepnews wrote:
"Mr. Stewart holds it all together deftly. He interacts with the correspondents far more than Mr. Kilborn ever did, sending the message that even though its official name is now The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, the show is a team effort rather than a star vehicle. His celebrity interviews are sharper and funnier than Mr. Kilborn's were."
So, let's flashback to 1999 and take a look at exactly how a young Stewart interpreted a pre-9/11 world, where Hillary's hubby was about to get impeached and Y2K was, well, actually a legit worry.
1. Stewart's Hair Was So Different
I know it's superficial, but check out his hair. So full, so wild, so dark. As time has gone on, Stewart has accumulated some grey hairs (don't we all) and his mane has gotten far more coiffed.
I'd also like to note that he looks so tiny behind the desk and his suit looks a bit oversized. But, those are kinks were definitely worked out later on.
2. He Used To Open The Show With "Headlines"
"Headlines" and other segment names like "This Just In" were dropped earlier in the 2000s. But, back in 1999, one of the headlines Stewart tackled was the news that Popeye and Olive Oyl were getting married (above). Cue the wedding night jokes.
3. The Clinton Impeachment Trial Was About To Begin
In what Stewart calls "The Final Blow" (ahem), he chronicles the totally dated Monica Lewinsky-driven impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton (above). And, he summed it up so well at the time: "The important issue facing the U.S. Senate is how can it take a pointless, tawdry trial whose outcome has already been decided and make it last for six hilarious, humiliating months."
4. Stephen Colbert Was The First Correspondent To Appear
Colbert talks with Stewart on a very old school TV screen that looks like it was wheeled into your classroom for movie day. Nonetheless, Colbert comments on the merchandising of the Clinton trial, because capitalism. I don't know if I'm surprised or not shocked at all that the new Late Show host still looks exactly the same. This is some Paul Rudd magic right here.
5. Michael J. Fox Was The First Guest
Back in 1999, Fox was starring in the sitcom Spin City. Stewart's interview with the actor is all over the place, but you can tell Stewart will find his way eventually. Fox and Stewart banter about their respective heights — Fox is taller than Stewart, just FYI. They even gab a little about Titanic, which I guess was still in the zeitgeist back then. Stewart then brings up his ill-fitting suit: "I feel like this is my Bar Mitzvah. I haven't worn something like this in years and I have a rash like you would not believe."
Stewart does a weird Kilbourn segment with Fox called "Four Questions" (the lighter, on-its-way-out version of "Five Questions") and I'm really glad it got phased out. It totally doesn't fit in with what becomes Stewart's future interviewing style.
6. Stewart's First Editorial Was Telling
Naturally, his first soapbox moment is about him taking over as host. In what he calls "A Hastily Thrown Together Editorial," Stewart addressed the audience's potential worry that The Daily Show would change under his helm. "I'm a new member of this family," he said in the clip above. "Your family. And I'll be here for you every night. While we may never be a family of love, I hope we can at least sit together at meal times. In absolute silence. Pretending not to notice that Jimmy is gay."
But, alas, it has become a family of love. Jon, you will definitely be missed every night.
Images: Martin Crook/Comedy Central; Comedy Central (press site).