Jon Stewart Makes A Laugh-Filled, Sentimental Exit From 'The Daily Show' | KERA News

Jon Stewart Makes A Laugh-Filled, Sentimental Exit From 'The Daily Show'

Aug 7, 2015
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Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. After 16 years as host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, Jon Stewart presented his farewell program last night. Our TV critic David Bianculli says it was an entertaining finale from start to finish, and also at times a quietly emotional one, for Stewart and for viewers. Here's his review.

DAVID BIANCULLI, BYLINE: In the days leading up to Jon Stewart's final "Daily Show" appearance, many of his guests were old friends. And the tone was a mixture of genuine gratitude and casual celebration. Johnny Carson on his penultimate "Tonight Show" was serenaded by Bette Midler. Jon Stewart on his next-to-last "Daily Show" was thanked by Louis C.K.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

LOUIS C.K.: I came on behalf of comedy to say...

JON STEWART: On behalf of comedy - you're representing comedy?

C.K.: I represent all comedy just to say, you know, nice job.

STEWART: Thank you my friend. I appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

BIANCULLI: After joking around and reminiscing a bit, Louis C.K. turned serious for a second and summed up Stewart's accomplishments on "The Daily Show" in a way that saves me a lot of time because I couldn't say it any better.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

C.K.: But I've got to tell you, I mean, I'm really amazed by what you did here. It's really impressive that you did this show for this long and kept it this good for this long. And you stayed with the world's events, and you were a voice of reason and you were funny. It's really, like, one of the great comedy accomplishments of all time that you did.

(APPLAUSE)

BIANCULLI: Jon Stewart's reign on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" began in 1999, when he inherited the program from Craig Kilborn and quickly made it his own. Stewart was lucky enough, in a comedic sense, to start just as the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings were gearing up and also was lucky enough to have as the show's impeachment hearings correspondent on Stewart's very first program, a young man named Stephen Colbert.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEWART: So basically the money's in the merchandising for this.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Actually, the real money's in sponsorship. The Democrats are being brought to you by Chili's new El Diablo baby-back rib fajitas. Can you stand the heat?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: (Laughter). El Diablo?

COLBERT: El Diablo, the official fajita of the impeachment process.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I see. Well, what about the Republicans? Have they lined up any sponsorship?

COLBERT: The Republicans are being brought to you by lying, vindictive hypocrites and Old Navy performance fleece.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Old Navy, Old Navy, Old Navy performance fleece.

BIANCULLI: On last night's finale, the entire history of Stewart's "Daily Show" was saluted energetically and brilliantly. The show opened with ostensible coverage of the same night's Republican debate of top 10 presidential candidates. And when more correspondents were needed to cover all 10, they kept coming - cameos one after the other, to the loud delight of the studio audience. Future "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah came on with a tape measure to get a sense of the space. And from the old days, virtually everybody showed up from John Oliver and Samantha Bee to Steve Carell and Larry Wilmore.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

LARRY WILMORE: Excuse me, Jon, excuse me.

STEWART: What?

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART: Oh, my god, this is amazing.

WILMORE: Yeah, thought I'd stop by 'cause I got nothing else to do tonight. "The Nightly Show" got bumped.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Sorry about that, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

WILMORE: Black shows matter, Jon.

(LAUGHTER)

BIANCULLI: And finally, saved for last was the correspondent who was there on Stewart's day one, Stephen Colbert, who next month will become the new host of the "Late Show" on CBS. Colbert started with a bit comparing Stewart to Frodo from "Lord Of The Rings" then hijacked the show to tell Stewart something unscripted.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

COLBERT: Actually, Jon, we're not quite done.

STEWART: Don't do this.

COLBERT: Just a moment, Jon.

STEWART: Don't do this.

COLBERT: No, you can't stop anyone because they don't work for you anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Huge mistake, Jon.

STEWART: Please don't do this.

COLBERT: It'll be quick if you just hold still.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Jon, I've been asked and have the privilege to say something to you that is not in the prompter right now.

STEWART: Please don't do this.

COLBERT: Here's the thing, Jon. You said to me and to many other people here years ago never to thank you because we owe you nothing.

STEWART: Yes, yes. Thank you, that's right.

COLBERT: It is one of the few times I've known you to be dead wrong. We owe you - and not just what you did for our career by employing us to come on this tremendous show that you made. We owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect. You were infuriatingly good at your job, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: All of us - all of us who were lucky enough to work with you - and you can edit this out later. All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours and we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man and personally, I do not know how this...

BIANCULLI: That long roll out of previous correspondents, and on tape a few favorite targets such as John McCain and Wolf Blitzer, was a brilliant extended bit. And after saluting all the on-camera talent, Stewart's final "Daily Show" did the same to everyone behind the scenes, capturing them in a single-take backstage tour. Then after warning viewers to be skeptical and vigilant, he told them he considered his career a long conversation with the audience. He was quoting an artist he admired but didn't site by name. Yet that artist was on hand to provide the show with an emotional, high-note ending, as Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band performed "Land Of Hope And Dreams" and "Born To Run."

For 16 years, Jon Stewart closed each "Daily Show" by offering viewers what he called your moment of Zen. Last night, he provided his own and said so.

I'm still sorry Jon Stewart is leaving, but he couldn't have left with a better final show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

STEWART: That's our show. I thank you so much for the privilege of being able to perform it for you, for the privilege of being able to do it. And so here it is, my moment of Zen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

E STREET BAND: (Singing) This train.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: This is by request of the man himself.

E STREET BAND: (Singing) This train.

SPRINGSTEEN: Thanks for everything, Jon. We wish you happy and safe travels.

E STREET BAND: (Singing) This train.

SPRINGSTEEN: One, two, three, four...

DAVIES: David Bianculli is founder and editor of the website TV Worth Watching and teaches television and film history at Rowan University in New Jersey. If you missed our tribute to Jon Stewart yesterday, you can find it on our podcast at itunes.com/freshair. On Monday's show, Ari Berman talks about how the Voting Rights Act has changed since its passage in 1965.

ARI BERMAN: The 2016 presidential election's going to be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

DAVIES: Berman's book is "Give Us The Ballot." Hope you can join us. FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today is Sam Briger. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional engineering support from Joyce Lieberman and Julien Herzfeld. Dorothy Ferebee is our administrative assistant. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.