Tonight, an important chapter of American television history comes to a close: Jon Stewart will be saying goodbye to the audience of “The Daily Show” with an hour-long special. The 52-year old comedian has been the host of the program for over 16 years, filming more than 2,600 episodes.
Stewart’s half-hour satire show was broadcast four times a week on cable channel Comedy Central and was widely considered one of the most influential political programs in the United States. The set and the structure of the show mimic those of a news program. Thematically, “The Daily Show” resorted to biting satire of American politics and political reporting, focusing in particular on the faults of the 24-hour-news networks.
The liver in the body of American discourse
“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” – the official title of the program since Stewart took over in 1999 – drew in an audience of about 2 million Americans per episode on television, and millions of viewers from around the world online. The show won the most coveted award in American television, the Emmy, 20 times. Many see Stewart, who started his career as a stand-up comedian in the early 1990s, as one of the most important figures in American political broadcasting. The 52-year old not only mocked political events and news programs, he also analyzed and contextualized them.
James Poniewozik, television critic for the magazine Time, declared him . Stewart, he said, has been “a media filter that absorbs a torrent filled with toxins – in this case, politics, punditry and sensationalism – and passes it through in a form that you can safely tolerate.”
Stewart’s bread and butter is making fun of right-wing news networks and conservative politicians. Among the favorite targets of “The Daily Show” are the conservative network Fox News, right-wing populist movements like the Tea Party and Republican hardliners such as Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan. The comedian said in a CNN interview that while most would probably consider him a Democrat, he considers himself “more of a socialist or an independent”. But his mockery is not exclusively reserved for the Right. He relentlessly poked fun at the deeply flawed implementation of President Obama’s health care reform and CNN, once saying that CNN was likely run by just “a roomful of angry chimps”.
Stewart interviewed many prestigious guests on “The Daily Show”. The comedian talked to not just Hollywood actors and pop stars, but also activists such as Nobel Peace price winner Malala Yousafzai as well as authors, journalists and political icons such as former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf or US president Barack Obama, who – despite the critism for how his administration handled the health care reform- visited “The Daily Show” three times, for the last time in late July. The format of “The Daily Show” was copied across the globe: The weekly German satire news show “heute-show” borrows heavily from “The Daily Show”, as do programs in the Netherlands, Iraq and Egypt.
The future of ‘The Daily Show’: Less Fox News, more Buzzfeed
After Stewart’s departure, comedian Trevor Noah will take over as host of “The Daily Show”. Comedy Central announced this in March. The 30-year old South African had joined the program as a correspondent only four months earlier in December, 2014. At an event hosted for the Television Critics Association, that he planned on changing the show’s set “a tiny bit,” and that he wants to focus less on the blunders of 24-hour news networks such as Fox News and more on the problems of online journalism. Noah’s debut episode will air on September 28th.