Written by Joan Stevenson—
My world has been shaken, yet again. First the exit of my much beloved fictional conservative pundit Stephen Colbert, then last week Jon Stewart announced his eventual departure from The Daily Show.
The Daily Show and the Colbert Report were my release from the stress of the day. No matter what was going on in my world, no matter how upsetting the day was, I always looked forward to my nightcap of Stewart and Colbert. Even though there were taut political issues being discussed, they were presented with just enough humor that they diffused my tension. I literally laugh out loud when I watch those shows as well as walk away with a better understanding of complex political and world news because they streamlined the current issues into clear, understandable bites to digest. For example, if it weren’t for Stephen Colbert, I (and for that matter the rest of average Americans) would not know how a super pac works and how that money shapes the electoral landscape and therefore shapes our country. I would rather watch these shows than be stuck watching World News Tonight. To be honest, I get the bulk of my world and political news from NPR, the DS and the CR.
After Stephen left there was a truthiness-shaped hole in my heart and my viewing schedule. There could never be anything that could take the place of the Colbert Report, but Comedy Central filled the spot with The Nightly Show hosted by The Daily Show contributor Larry Wilmore. The show was originally going to be called “The Minority Report.” But because the Fox network is planning a TV show based on the Tom Cruise film of the same name, Comedy Central had to change the name of their show.
The Nightly Show is an interesting placeholder. It takes on current topics with the objective of opening a dialogue. In the short time it has been on the air, The Nightly Show has taken on topics as the allegations against Bill Cosby, the controversy surrounding the film American Sniper, the anti-vaccine movement, and the state of gay marriage in the United States.
While Nightly does take on current issues, the balance of humor is a little different than Colbert. It is more conversational than scripted, but it goes to the nature of the show since host Larry Wilmore is not playing a character but a moderator in an open discussion. The round table discussion forum is great, but because the show is only 30 minutes it doesn’t leave much room for in depth conversation as say Real Time with Bill Maher does, but it’s basically the same type of format. In and of itself The Nightly Show is not bad, and it may prove to be a fine asset, but the Colbert I love is still gone and in a while Jon will be too.
While I know that The Daily Show itself won’t be canceled, there will be a definite loss. Jon Stewart has been the driving force behind the DS for 15 years bringing an open-minded viewpoint and personal passion to the desk, and that’s important to the heart of the show. Who ever the next host is, they have to be engaging enough that the audience wants to spend time with them, and they have to be credible enough. I know credible is an unusual word to use when you’re talking about “fake” news but Jon Stewart has credibility and is trustworthy. His successor has to have that right balance. The only person I could immediately think of that could take over Jon’s seat would be John Oliver. When Jon Stewart took a brief absence from The Daily Show to direct the brilliant film Rosewater, DS contributor John Oliver stepped in and took over the desk. He did such a great job that now he has his own news satire program, Last Week with John Oliver, on HBO. Because of that I don’t think he’ll be coming back to the DS. Jon isn’t leaving till the fall so maybe at some point there will be a few guest hosts to give the deck a “test drive.” That would be the fair thing to do, because this change could possibly kill the 17-year run of a great show. Comedy Central needs to carefully choose a successor I’m sure Jon will have a say in who replaces him.
After Jon made his announcement, I could just hear the colossal talking (knuckle) heads over at Fox News celebrating. I’m sure they think they’ve finally gotten rid of Jon who was a huge thorn in their sides for years. Jon’s successor needs to keep that thorn there and constantly pressing against the nerve. The Daily Show held the powers that be accountable for their actions and pointed out the hypocrisy of the republican/conservative party and its main propaganda machine which is Fox News. It also pointed out how broken the national media machine is and how it hurts us as a people and a nation. Daily outlined inequalities of race and class and gender in our media and in society as a whole, giving us a vast mirror in which to see ourselves. This is something that is much needed and should not be shaken. These are things that should not be lost. The new host should be just as dedicated to and passionate about this mission as Jon is, and not be chosen simply for the sake of hiring someone that’s funny. That’s my biggest concern, to trust that they will get someone that will be a good fit.
As I’ve said, I know that there are no plans to cancel the show, but in a few months The Daily Show that I have known and loved for over a decade will be no more and I will have to deal with that. My dilemma is that I don’t like change, especially if it upsets my routine. I’m a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” person. *SIGH* Here’s hoping the new host, whoever that may be, is up to the task and can proudly carry on the tradition. They have a big chair to fill.