NEW YORK: Jon Stewart said goodbye to “The Daily Show” Thursday. America’s foremost satirist of politicians and the media, was ushered out by Bruce Springsteen and a reunion of the many colleagues that he worked with during 16 years as host.“Guess what? Stewart said. “I’ve got big news. This is it.”
Armed with a razor-sharp wit and research team adept at finding video evidence of hypocrisy or unintentional comedy among the nation’s establishment, Stewart turned a sleepy basic-cable entertainment show into a powerful cultural platform.
For his finale, he pretended to report on Thursday’s Republican presidential debate – which actually happened after the taping – but said he didn’t have enough remaining correspondents to discuss all candidates.
That was the vehicle to bring in a long succession of personalities whose careers were jump-started by Stewart by the show – Aasif Mandvi, Lewis Black, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, Samantha Bee and Wyatt Cenac.
He’d been away from the show for longer than a decade, but Carell said that “becoming an international superstar is just something I did while awaiting my next assignment.”
Colbert, who begins in September as David Letterman’s replacement on CBS’ “Late Show,” offered the most heartfelt tribute, saying the accomplishments of Stewart’s troupe members through the years was a testament to the extraordinary example he set.
“You,” Colbert said, “were infuriatingly good at your job.”
Some of Stewart’s comedy targets appeared in cameos to get in a final word. Wolf Blitzer wished him well, while the screen behind him on the CNN set read, “Screw you, Stewart.”
Hillary Clinton bemoaned Stewart leaving “just when I’m running for president. What a bummer.”
“So long, jackass,” said 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Stewart offered a soliloquy on what was his central job as host – finding doubletalk in the public arena and exposing it for the world to see, although he actually used a stronger term for it. He urged viewers to be vigilant in watching out for it themselves.
“If you smell something,” he said, “say something.”
Fellow New Jersey resident Springsteen provided Stewart’s last “moment of Zen.” He performed “Land of Hope and Dreams” at the host’s request, then “Born to Run,” with guests clustered around like it was a band at a high school dance.
Springsteen inspired Stewart to follow his own career dreams. Stewart said he admired how the songwriter described his career as an ongoing conversation with his fans. He said that he liked the idea for many reasons, but mostly, because it takes away the idea of finality.
“Rather than saying ‘Goodbye’ or ‘Good night,’” Stewart said, “I’m just going to say, ‘I’m going to get a drink, and I’m sure I’ll see you guys before I leave.’”
Stewart’s finale went longer than the traditional half-hour, knocking out “The Nightly Show.”
“Black shows matter, Jon,” said Larry Wilmore, the show’s host with fake annoyance.
With thousands of words in tributes written on his behalf the past few weeks, Stewart hasn’t granted exit interviews. He showed up for a podcast done by his show’s executive producers, spending most of the half-hour talking about the menus for catered meals at the office – including a lengthy discussion of whether egg sandwiches were better on English muffins or Kaiser rolls.
Trevor Noah, who replaces Stewart as host next month, appeared on the finale with measuring tape, jokingly checking out the set.