Jon Stewart signed off Thursday night after 16 years as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, doubling his usual time frame to an hour and ticking off The Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore in the process. “I’ve got nothing else to do, I got bumped,” the former Daily Show Chief Black Correspondent told Stewart during his brief appearance. “Black shows matter, Jon.”
After weeks of pretending to blush as celebrity visitors stopped by to kiss his ring, Stewart used his final bow to salute on-camera colleagues past and present, along with an offstage tour of the premises that included a guest jibe from Martin Scorsese, reminding him maybe not-so-good-naturedly that it wasn’t the first time Stewart “ripped off Goodfellas.”
The first segment was like a hot tub time-travel trip, as the show’s current trio 0f correspondents were joined by the sprites of Stewart past: Aasif Mandvi and Samantha Bee, Rob Corddry, Al Madrigal, John Hodgman, Kristin Schaal, Lewis Black, Steve Carell, Jason Jones and Mo Rocca all showed up, as did John Oliver, who referenced his sweet HBO perch by taking a jab at Stewart’s need to cut to commercials. From “across the street,” Wyatt Cenac — source of some sharp comments aimed at his ex-boss in recent days — said a subdued hello and added that he was doing OK.
The honor spot was reserved, naturally, for CBS-bound Stephen Colbert, who began as a Daily Show correspondent, got his own show and now is set to replace the recently departed David Letterman. Colbert hung around long enough for a tortured Lord Of The Rings bit (“I’m Sam, you’re Frodo, because one of us is adult size and does not have hairy toes”) before slathering Stewart with goo: “We owe you,” Colbert said, and I’m pretty certain he spoke without irony, “because we learned from you — how to do a show with clarity, how to treat people with respect. … You are a great artist and a good man.” Why, if it weren’t for Jon Stewart, he’d “be back on those hills mining turds.”
The second segment featured semi-snarkish tributes from bold-face names Stewart coddled or sparred with over the years, from Sen. John McCain (“Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. So long, jackass!”) and Bill O’Reilly (“Quitter!”) to Hillary Clinton (“Bummer!” she moaned, lamenting his departure just as her campaign for the Democratic nomination for President is getting underway). Arby’s CEO Paul Brown, showing it wasn’t enough that he’d bought ad time on Wednesday’s show (“We’ll miss you, though we’re not sure why”) offered a new logline for the show, as if the host weren’t leaving: “Jon Stewart: It’s like a TV threw up on your face.”
After the tour of the Daily Show offices and the appropriately dopey intros of the staff, Stewart at long last took to the pulpit (i.e. Camera 3) to deliver a final sermon. It was about bullshit — and it was, sadly, below Jon Stewart par. The message? We’re inundated with b.s., which it is our solemn duty to detect and resist. “Bullshit is everywhere,” he said, like “social-contract fertilizer” whose purpose is to make the unpalatable palatable and “bad things sound like good things. … Take a good, long sniff. If you smell something, say something. The best defense against bullshit is vigilance.”
Yeah, OK, one thing I didn’t expect from Stewart in his leave-taking was condescension, but I suppose he deserves a pass. Who’d have thought the Fox-run Republican candidates’ debate, which aired just before the show, would prove to offer so much more bullshit-sniffing comedy than Jon Stewart’s adieu? Fortunately, Springsteen and company were around to serenade him off the stage with a rousing “Land Of Hope And Dreams” and “Born To Run.” Didn’t sniff anything suspicious there.