Jon Stewart and American culture

You don’t have to be a fan or even a regular viewer to know that TV won’t be the same without Jon Stewart. The left-leaning comedian who used a scalpel-sharp satire to skewer American politics, media and the absurdities in our culture, is stepping down from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” after 16 seasons and 20 Emmy awards.

You don’t have to be a fan or even a regular viewer to know that TV won’t be the same without Jon Stewart. The left-leaning comedian who used a scalpel-sharp satire to skewer American politics, media and the absurdities in our culture, is stepping down from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” after 16 seasons and 20 Emmy awards.

The nightly program that catapulted Stewart into superstardom consisted of a mock “nightly news” format, through which Stewart made pithy observations of recent news events.

MURDERERS’ ROW

The show also spawned a “Murderers’ Row” of comedians in a similar vein, including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Larry Wilmore, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, Mo Rocca, Rob Riggle, Olivia Munn and Samantha Bee.

Under Stewart, “The Daily Show” added to the American lexicon, coining such phrases as “Mess O’ Potamia” to describe the war in Iraq; “The Week in God”; “InDecision X” for election coverage; and the nonsensical “Your Moment of Zen.”

No one was safe from Stewart’s wisenheimer barbs, skewers and send-ups—not his fellow liberals, not the well-meaning guests who dared to show up, not his own Jewish and New York City roots; not even the president of the United States.

But Stewart saved his best wind-ups for Fox News personalities, brushing them back from the plate at will by using their own video clips against them—chief among them, the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends” and pundits Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

SLICED AND DICED

In the fall of 2004, Stewart and his rapier wit vaulted to prominence after dismantling former CNN pundits Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala by accusing the “Crossfire” co-hosts of abandoning their responsibilities as journalists. During the segment, Stewart asked the duo to “stop, stop, stop hurting America.” When Carlson attempted to create levity by asking Stewart to “be funny,” Stewart responded by taking Carlson to task for not asking political leaders hard questions. Carlson’s career never fully recovered.

The career and reputation of investment expert Jim Cramer took a nosedive in 2009 after Stewart sliced and diced the MSNBC TV host for his inability to foresee the coming economic collapse, all while touting the virtues of Wall Street.

Why were these considered such watershed moments in popular culture? Because a 2004 Pew Research Center poll found that 20 percent of people 18 to 30 were getting their knowledge of current events not from actual media sources, but from Stewart’s fake newscast—a finding that appalls Stewart and makes his point.

South African comedian Trevor Noah has been tapped to replace Stewart this fall, which means “The Daily Show” will go on. But it won’t be the same.