I have been watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 2000. It was one day in about September or somewhere at the beginning of the school year, and they were doing coverage of the election. I was 9 years old, and my dad was flipping through the channels. He happened across this show, and we started watching. It wasn’t normal – it was late at night, and we had school the next day. Normally we would never have been allowed to stay up late to watch TV – but for some odd reason this was different. And it continued. We got to watch episodes almost every night, even though they were late. I still don’t know why my parents agreed to let me, 9 years old, and my 7 year old sister to stay up late to watch this show, but they did. (Thank gods for that, too)
I can admit, my sister and I were a bit more…intuitive and curious about politics, even at that age, than most children are. We had watched the candidate debates earlier, had seen Republican candidates and Democratic candidates square off to get the nominations. There was one Republican who blinked a lot – we thought he was a liar, and complained about him (only as children do). Then there was George W. Bush – we had a lot to say about him too – mostly to the sum that we did not trust him or like him. The way he smirked, we both would talk after the debates and point out how he always looked like he was hiding something.
Ever since then, those nights watching The Daily Show with my parents, I have watched a good 80-100% (depending on the year) of the episodes of this show. I’ve been getting my news there, being interested to look up events, issues and people I was not familiar with. While also learning more about those issues I already recognized. Not to say that I didn’t and don’t read other news sources or watch other programs, I do. But this has been the mainstay ever since that first week of watching episodes.My year in Germany – I watched The Daily Show on Comedy Central’s website on a daily basis, keeping up on US politics during the turbulent time up to the 2012 election by watching this show and learning what was going on back stateside. It was clearer coverage, more honest, and told me those things I could not gauge while living in a foreign country. It was easier to keep up with this (and the Colbert Report), rather than to try and watch multiple stories across 5-7 other websites. I would read articles from else where, but this was the primary source at that time. – This was also the year I started reading foreign news coverage of the United States, understanding more about different perspectives outside the big media channels that dominate in the United States themselves. That is also thanks to this show, which taught me that you have to understand different perspectives to really be an educated citizen.
For 15 years of my life Jon Stewart has been the driving force and host who ridiculed the hypocrisy of news media, while presenting the most accurate coverage of a situation. It was humorous and intelligent as a show. It was amusing and also at times heart-wrenchingly sad to watch what was being covered. I learned more from this show and their coverage than I learned from any of the big media channels, more focused on spin and being political mouthpieces.
Not to say this show did not have its slant. I think one would have to be pretty blind to not notice that The Daily Show slanted liberal, not conservative. In big part because for much of those years the Republican Party held the White House, Senate and House – and the party in power is always easier to ridicule. However, even during the newer years, with a Democrat President, the House and Senate have still been overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans. Another part of it, I sincerely suspect is that in many ways the Republican party is far more out of touch with the young people of our country – who are becoming the majority of our citizens – so it is easier to lambast them. It’s hard to lambast a party that stays more in touch with citizens; or at least, not nearly as often as you can blast a party that is clearly out of touch. But it has not been a complete slaughter of Republicans without also haranguing the Democrats. If you do something stupid, it was going to get mocked.
So I can honestly say that for 15 years, I’ve learned and grown into an active citizen, thanks to this show. I remember somewhere along the line, commentary on the show about how not voting harmed our country – statistics being read of the number of people who actually voted, as compared to the population of our country that should be voting. It taught me, from watching people get elected, or bills being passed, that I could not believe happened – it taught me that I had to be an active citizen, I had to vote and understand what was going on. The coverage of this show, blasting the crazy and sometimes ridiculous policies being put into action, it sometimes horrified me, as a teenager sitting there and watching as either inaction by citizens or voting without understanding (just voting whatever “your party” voted) was the name of the game for many people. I could not just sit by and do nothing. That’s what this show taught me, starting when I was 9 years old, watching Indecision 2000 episodes.
It was always clear to me that Jon Stewart championed women’s rights, civil rights, and transparency and honesty in the media. I appreciated that, especially in a time where other media outlets would comment on things in a way that made me wonder whether they even cared about the people they were talking about…wonder if they even thought them human. And his passion for the honesty – as I said, in a world where major media plans spin doctor and hacks out to the two political parties – it was refreshing to have a show that would hack through all the talking points and would tell a normal person what was really going on.
This show was a big part of my growth to always question, to always research, always read to understand what is going on around you. Skills I apply every day not only in my understanding as a polytheist and my learning about my spiritual life, but also in my daily life in all topics and subjects. I am a better citizen for having grown up watching this show. For understanding after 15 years of coverage that I have to be an active citizen. I do not have the right to sit by and just let things happen. If I am going to live, work and thrive in my country, I have to know what is going on, to understand what is talking point-talk and what real politics behind the talking points are.
I know that many times Jon Stewart has said he is just a comedian. And he is. But, as host of The Daily Show he has also helped many people of my generation to be interested in politics. We are genuinely disillusioned with the political process. We understand that it is a wreck and it is atrocious sometimes in how it runs rough-shod over the citizens that it claims to “represent”. Many times the system seems to want to stomp on and crush my generation, and with crushing responsibilities from a long-spiraling, bloated economy and process that finally came crashing down around us…I do not think anyone can genuinely blame us for sometimes feeling like nothing we do will matter. But funny satire, humor and biting wit and humor – from The Daily Show and a few others, is something we understand–that we can relate to. It makes the generally horrid reality of politics something more easy to engage with.
It isn’t difficult to understand why The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was so popular. Not for people my age. Not for people of other generations either. But overwhelmingly, I know that Jon Stewart and his tenure on The Daily Show has shaped a lot of my friends’ political knowledge. It made them understand what was going on. If you want to get some of the humor on the show, you have to be in the know. Knowledge is power and understanding. This show was a way for my generation to engage in a way that was not condescending and pondering, not looking down on us. It was for us, for others sure, but also above all else, open and accessible to anyone to watch and join in.
So in my own way, this is the end of an era. Something that started when I was a kid, and now I’m an adult and things are changing. The fact that Jon Stewart is no longer hosting is sad. But I have to say, he and the show provided me with the tools to be an informed, active citizen who looks for the truth in coverage and does not just accept the face-value story without question. That is a valuable tool, one that no matter who I go to for news now – I will always be able to figure out what is going on.
It is sad that he’s retiring. I’ll miss being able to hear his witticisms and criticism, humor and conversation on the daily news. That is for sure. I don’t think there is going to be another news pundit (comedic or otherwise) who can tackle issues in the way he has. But, I’m glad that he stayed as long as he did. 16 years as host, and I’ve been able to watch along for almost all of that time.
Whether comedian, news reporter or pundit…it’s been great getting to watch and go along these years. It’s been great to see the show and uses it to learn more and to keep updated on current events. I’m glad that I got to tune in 15 years ago, and that I continued to watch this show. It was a good run.∗
Here is one link to an article that sums up the farewell last night well: here.