How Jon Stewart's Final 'The Daily Show' Speech Was Proof That He Wasn't Ready To Say Goodbye
If you're still totally not over Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show after 16 years of being the King of comedic political takedowns, then have heart America, because it sounds as though he still has plenty of cathartic venom to bring to our TV screens yet. Tuesday brings the deliriously wonderful announcement that Stewart has signed a four-year deal with HBO to deliver some timely, short-form digital content for HBO Now, HBO Go and other platforms (with content reportedly being refreshed multiple times throughout the day). And, honestly? Stewart's return to media should be no surprise: After all, his final Daily Show speech is proof that he was far from done in calling out the bullshitters.
The speech, which still manages to give me serious goosebumps whenever I hear it, was delivered with such exhaustive vitriol that it comes as no surprise that he still has has plenty to spare. It's also not that surprising that Stewart is choosing to deliver his swaggering, always on-point political observations within a shorter format (in a statement released with the announcement, Stewart said "Appearing on television 22 minutes a night clearly broke me. I’m pretty sure I can produce a few minutes of content every now and again,") — after all, Stewart is the type of comedian who can slay a political minefield with a mere sentence.
Whilst the deal with HBO also involves a first-look option for film and TV ventures (come right up here and high five me through the screen, people), I'm perhaps most excited by the potential for shorter material. If "shorter material" means Stewart would be delivering his observations within short, sharp videos, it would be perfect — he would be giving himself more space with which to really target and refine the true crux of every news item or political lunacy, and to eviscerate it in the sort of timely manner that both satire and the Internet hungrily demand. Satire, after all, waits for no one, and is a dish served best when it's fresh off the bone.
Whilst The Daily Show certainly never missed a beat in its wry and often scathing commentaries on contemporary culture and politics, a whole day between episodes can be a long time to wait when there's clearly a serious individual, statement or action which the public is vying for some form of comedic retribution for.
We also live in increasingly politically polarized times where the chasm between rich and poor, race relations, gender inequality and economic legislation have scarcely felt so truly fraught. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we all mourned so hard when Stewart finally left The Daily Show; it's easy (or, as the case may be, not so easy) to read about current affairs but it's even harder to pick through the news without falling victim to whatever spin news corporations choose to put on their reporting. As such, Stewart could pick through the bullshit, he could disseminate it with the sort of understanding of what his audience sorely needed to gain from reports, and challenge injustices with a caustic wit that made him a champion of fearless honesty.
The news can be increasingly difficult to bear, but with the sort of comedy that Stewart can offer, it makes it easier to stomach and even easier to digest. By giving us what will hopefully be (and from the sounds of it, should be) a shorter, punchier version of his Daily Show mandate, Stewart will be able to strip even more of the bullshit he spoke about in his final, infamous speech away from the news and into the sort of taught, searing commentary that satire has time and again succeeded in not only providing some sort of united understanding about a particular political polemic but also a comedic release from the often infuriating nature of politics.
Whilst I'm loathe to ever compare the talents of the almighty Stewart with those of Denis Leary, his move to a shorter format gives me a projected impression reminiscent of Leary's early '90s short rants which used to air during the commercial breaks of MTV.
In them, Leary would talk fast and ruthlessly, providing a commentary against contemporary culture and critiquing the alternative scene of which MTV's target audience were primarily a part of. He criticized the Royal Family, made acerbic observations about drugs, and tore apart the superficiality of the music industry of which MTV was partly to blame for heightening at the start of the '90s.
By being a part of the commercial breaks, awash as they were with often banal news reports or grotesquely pandering advertisements for corporations often jumping on "alternative" bandwagons in order to sell things to a young audience that they had little interest in understanding, Leary was subverting conventional expectations. He was speaking back to an audience who had already grown cynical of over commercialized programming and savvy of how the world was being broadcasted to them.
Although we'll have to tell with time just exactly how Stewart's four-year deal with HBO will pan out content wise, I can't help but feel confident that he'll be delivering something special. The great thing about Stewart is that he can talk the talk but he's also got his ear to the ground at all times. And not a single ounce of bullshit manages to make it through.
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