When he leaves Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” on Aug. 6 after hosting nearly 2,600 episodes, Jon Stewart will have logged too many great moments to count. But here are 10 Stewart highlights — both on and off the show — worth remembering:
HAIL TO THE CHIEF
(December 2000) Reporting on George W. Bush’s remarks as he clinched the presidency, Stewart replayed Bush declaring, “I was not elected to serve one party,” to which he retorted, “You were not ELECTED.” Then back to Bush saying, “I ask for you to pray for this great nation.” To which Stewart added somberly, “We’re waaaaay ahead of you.”
(September 2001) On his first show following the Sept. 11 attacks, Stewart, with his emotions barely in check, delivered a soul-baring statement of grief, “so that we can drain whatever abscess is in our hearts and move on to the business of making you laugh, which we haven’t been able to do very effectively lately.” He went on: “Our show has changed. I don’t doubt that. What it’s become, I don’t know.”
NO MONKEY BUSINESS
(October 2004) Stewart appeared as a guest on CNN’s quarrelsome “Crossfire,” where he startled its hosts by criticizing them for their “partisan hackery” and “doing theatre when you should be doing debate.” He implored them to “stop hurting America,” and when Tucker Carlson, the show’s conservative host, invited him to drop the serious act and be funny, Stewart shot back, “No, I’m not going to be your monkey!”
(March 2006) Stewart hosted the Oscars twice — in 2008 and two years before, when in his monologue he noted that two of the nominated films, “Good Night and Good Luck” and “Capote,” were about “determined journalists defying obstacles in a relentless pursuit of the truth. Needless to say,” he added pointedly, “both are period pieces.”
(March 2009) Stewart took on CNBC, unreeling video of the financial network’s personalities making howlingly wrong forecasts for market behaviour. Then, after “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer booked appearances on CNBC sister networks NBC and MSNBC to rail against Stewart, the “Daily Show” host “responded” with make-believe appearances on other Viacomseries, inserting himself into MTV’s “The Hills” and Nickelodeon’s “Dora the Explorer.” (“Why is everyone being such a pendejo?” Dora asks Stewart as he joins her in the frame, then tells the audience, “Pendejo: It means ‘jackass’ in Spanish.”)
(March 2010) Then still a major draw on Fox Channel, Glenn Beck was lampooned by Stewart in a virtuosic impersonation of the conservative champion, complete with Beck’s theatrics, byzantine pronouncements and, of course, many blackboards as he battled his volatile emotions: “As I look around at all the truly random things that I scribbled, I promised myself that I would cry.”
RALLY BIG SHOW
(October 2010) Aired live on Comedy Central and staged at Washington’s National Mall, “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” was staged by Stewart and “Colbert Report” host Stephen Colbert as a goofy, star-studded three-hour variety show with a serious social message: Americans aren’t as divided and at odds as the politicians who represent them or as the media portray them. “The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” Stewart declared. “It is us, through a fun house mirror.”
KEY OF F-WORD
(April 2010) Having let loose during an earlier comic tirade against Fox with a simple bleeped proposal that the channel (bleep) itself, Stewart returned to the subject a few nights later leading a hallelujah chorus in a rousing musical reiteration that Fox , for preaching “Fair and Balanced” but seldom delivering, should indeed (bleep) itself.
(March 2014) After Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared, CNN, with so much time to fill but scant information, decided to “go nuts,” as Stewart summed up in a segment lampooning the dubious judgment of wall-to-wall coverage with nothing new to say yet ample use of “big fake airplanes, little fake airplanes, holographic airplanes!” Then he ran a clip of a CNN anchor, in a flight of fancy, suggesting that a psychic be retained to find the plane.
(June-July 2015) Stewart made the most of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, treating it as comic gold. And it was for him, night after night. On one show in July, he recalled Trump having said he “assumes” that not everyone illegally entering the U.S. from Mexico is a rapist. “By the law of averages,” Stewart explained, deadpan, a few of those immigrants are “unable to rape for medical reasons,” or maybe are “all raped out.”