Well, this stinks. After 16 years of host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart has decided to call it quits this fall when his current contract expires. To be sure, during his Rosewater press tour, he definitely dropped hints that he would probably move on, but on Tuesday he confirmed that he’d be leaving his post at Comedy Central. The response was swift, with the news being reported on CNN and other nightly news shows. As millennials wonder where they’ll get their news from now, I was reminded of Jon’s humble beginnings on MTV.
During the 90s, Jon had arguably the best (albeit short-lived) late-night talk show, The Jon Stewart Show,first for MTV and then syndicated nationally as an Arsenio replacement. David Letterman called it the future of late night in an interview, eventually appearing on the show’s final episode. The show pretty much followed the standard late night formula: opening jokes, desk bits and celebrity interviews, and musical guests. Only, instead of musical guests everyone else was scheduling, The Jon Stewart Show sought out more interesting bands and gave them a larger audience. Bands like Blind Melon, Slayer, Warren Zevon, Buffalo Tom, Naughty by Nature, The The, White Zombie, Faith No More, Notorious B.I.G., and Marilyn Manson.
My absolute favorite bits were the “Talk Show Jon” segments that would appear semi-regularly on Fridays between guests. Featuring a claymation lookalike Jon and performed by writers on the show (Dave Attel among them), they’re a twisted take on the show itself. I thought these were lost forever, but youtube to the rescue.
Though the show was successful on MTV, it didn’t fare well in syndication and was swiftly cancelled by MTV’s parent Paramount a year later. We all know Jon went on to become a respected late night host, taking over The Daily Show from Craig Kilborn and making The Tonight Show et al seem quaint. He’s an accomplished author, producer, hosted the Grammys and Oscars and won tons of Emmys. The Daily Show will remain legendary for launching the careers of dozens of writers along with Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver, Steve Carrell, etc. It’s become the launching pad for comedy talent that Carson’s Tonight Show was and Comedy Central is surely sweating trying to figure out who will take the reigns once Jon leaves. Jon redefined what late night could be twice and I can’t wait to see what he does next.