Media

How Jon Stewart and The Daily Show Helped Kill Off Brian Williams and Broadcast News

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It was more than a little weird that Jon Stewart announced his departure from The Daily Show the same day that Brian Williams announced his suspension from The NBC Nightly News.

Not because they're both from New Jersey (Greatest. State. Ever.) or because Williams was a recurring guest on Stewart's show. No, it's because The Daily Show played a huge role in cutting down the authority and power of broadcast and cable news in our mediascape. The big evening news programs may still draw relatively monster ratings, but the audience is a sliver of what it once was and will never again dictate what matters to us.

From my latest column at Time:

Who needs to watch someone simply read the news when you can watch someone deliver the same information, plus a satire of the medium itself? Especially for people under 50, who have no memories of Papa Cronkite and who remember supposedly legendary anchors such as Dan Rather only for bizarre episodes ("Kenneth, What is the Frequency?") and outright fabricationsThe Daily Show was a one-stop show for news and commentary on the news. In an age of multi-tasking, that's a godsend.

Especially in its early years, The Daily Show didn't just riff on the news and poke fun and roll eyes at the endless spew of stupid and self-serving statements made by celebrities, politicians, and other hucksters. With the help of talented producers, writers, and "correspondents" including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Nancy Walls, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Larry Wilmore, The Daily Show mimicked perfectly every aspect of network and cable news-gathering. The show was replete with ridiculous camera shots designed to reinforce audience sympathies, godawful banter between host and reporters, even more godawful questioning of people during news segments, and manic graphics that hyped every minor threat as the next great catastrophe facing the planet. And they actually produced stories that were being followed by everyone else in the business. By highlighting how the news is stitched together, The Daily Show helped instill a form of media literacy that is hugely important in a media-saturated age.

For all that, there's little doubt that, like Kwai Chang Caine leaving the Shaolin temple in the old Kung Fu series, it is time for Stewart to go:

In a particularly ridiculous moment from last year, Stewart apologized for saying on CNN (of all places) that he hadn't voted in the midterm elections. He was "being flip," he told his own audience later. "It sent a message that I didn't think voting was important or that I didn't think it was a big issue. And I do, and I did vote." Please, when a fake newsman starts thinking his every utterance is being taken seriously and needs to be defended or amended, something has gone very wrong.

Read the full article at Time.

Related: "What We Saw at the Stewart-Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear" (2010):

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  1. These overwraught Jon Stewart send-off articles are already more annoying than all those idiotic “Goodbye, New Republic Magazine” pieces from a few weeks ago.

    He’s a liar at a very fundamental level, who edited 4-hour interviews down to 12 second clips to make his targets look moronic or evil.

    His brand of “comedy” consists of rolling his eyes and tapping a pencil in reaction to said clips, while the pajama boy lemmings in his audience hoot.

    His vast “influence” was always wildly overstated, usually by insecure media cupcakes desperate to think of themselves as hip.

    And at the end of the day, he existed to reassure upper middle class urban white people that they are righteous, good, and most importantly, socially superior to all those other people.

    Screw him.

    1. And at the end of the day, he existed to reassure upper middle class urban white people that they are righteous, good, and most importantly, socially superior to all those other people.

      Yes he did. That was however their fault not Stewart’s. As annoying as Stewart’s ego can be, it was still a comedy show. Nothing made those idiots make it into something that it was. If it make people dumber, more narrow minded and less informed than they already were, it did so because those people wanted to be that way not because the show forced them or did much of anything beyond try and entertain them.

    2. These overwraught Jon Stewart send-off articles are already more annoying than all those idiotic “Goodbye, New Republic Magazine” pieces from a few weeks ago.

      True, but hopefully, should Lou Reed ever shed his mortal coil (perish the thought!), Reason will at least mention it in the A.M Links.

      1. DON’T TALK ABOUT LUCY LOU REED!

  2. The thing about him leaving the show is that every other time when someone has been given a platform like that they didn’t give it up. The closest figures to Stewart are Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Johnny Carson. Stern and Limbaugh show no signs of walking away and Carson worked until he retired for good, even though they all had more financial security and made much more money than Stewart.

    I don’t believe that Stewart is leaving because he wants to direct movies or do something else. He could remain and do all that anyway. I am sure comedy central would happily let him have lots of time off if they had to to keep him. He is leaving not so much because he wants to do something else but because he doesn’t want to do that anymore.

    1. It is easy to forget that the Daily show is not his show. He is not the producer and it was there before he got there. I wonder if maybe he wanted to be harder on Obama and challenge his audience more than he did but the producers said no. I also wonder if maybe he is leaving because he looked at his audience and decided he was tired of telling these baboons what they want to hear and how to think.

      Whatever you think of Stewart, he is not dumb. He has to realize how awful many of his fans are. I really think Stewart might have become cynical towards the sort of nasty, smug Progressivism of his fans over the Obama years. I think he will likely go back to comedy and stop doing political satire altogether and let his fans remember him as he was. He might, however, become a bit of an apostate and though not become som Libertarian, at least gore a few Prog cows and break away from his old audience a bit. If he did that, the butt hurt and anger of his worst fans is going to be delicious.

      1. I don’t know, John. I would have thought the same about Colbert, but he seems to have actually become the asshole that he now seems to be.

        The power of hooting monkey fans is stronger than we think, I would speculate.

        1. For sure but if Stewart had been taken in by the power, why would he leave? You would think if it had really gone to his head, he would stay there forever.

          Stern is a good example of someone’s fans going to their head. Stern will never stop doing his show. It is what he is.

          Stewart is leaving. You are probably right about him not realizing how idiotic his fans are. Him leaving makes me think there is at least a small chance he does.

          1. He might just be sick of working all the time. He’s rich, he might want to enjoy his wealth.

            And Howard is different. Even though he’s not even remotely as funny as he was back in his heyday (I was actually listening to Sternthology on SiriusXM the other day and they were playing a clip from the late 90s with Mike Judge; I was shitting myself laughing, it was great), it’s his show. There’s no one to “replace” him, it’s not like The Daily Show where hosts come and go. Why would Howard stop? You’re right that it is basically his whole life.

            1. Maybe, but most people who get to where Stewart are never want to enjoy their wealth. They love working too much.

              And Stern is a sad shadow of his old self. He was great back in the 1990s. I remember them sending Stuttering John out to ask Kathy Ireland if she used a pad or a plug. All you heard was this “AHH” and the sounds of various body guards beating the shit out of him.

              At some point he stopped being funny and became too enthralled with asking porn stars about their sex life and getting them to take their clothes off. She is a fucking porn start Howard, it is not some big accomplishment to get her to get naked for you.

              1. 90s Stern is the best Stern, though his late 80s/very early 90s is great too. When he did his TV show on Channel 9 in New York/New Jersey in 1990, I was staying with my grandparents for the summer and watched every episode. Holy shit was that funny. The Stuttering John shit was even more amazing when filmed because you could see the facial expressions of his targets.

                Also the super white trash guy who claimed he could blow smoke out his tear ducts and then puked on the console while trying was side-splittingly funny too.

                1. The entire show was such a collection of reprobates. It was fabulous.

    2. He is leaving not so much because he wants to do something else but because he doesn’t want to do that anymore.

      IF anyhting, the left doesn’t like selfish actions like these.

  3. As much as I hate Stewart, I realize he had his impact. As much as his audience tended toward the hipsters in search of validation for their own beliefs, you could tell Stewart was trying to rise above.

    Anytime Stewart would make a joke at the Left’s expense, you could tell that his studio audience didn’t laugh quite as hard as they did at the Bush jokes of 2004.

    1. I have never met Stewart and don’t watch the show very often at all. I do think however it is at least possible Stewart wanted the show to be less community affirmation hour for his audience and more cutting edge satire and his producers and Comedy Central told him no. Comedy Central made a lot of money validating those people’s beliefs. Why risk alienating them?

      1. I remember when Comedy Central cancelled Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Now, it was probably just a matter of TCwCQ having low ratings. But Comedy Central gave a release stating that TCwCQ didn’t cater to their preferred audience (namely, young, white, middle-class liberals), and that South Park already catered to the right-of-center crowd.

        The very next year, the old Tough Crowd slot was replaced with The Colbert Report. Which means, the liberals outnumbered the conservatives on Comedy Central 2:1.

        1. It really would be funny if Stewart ends up turning against the politics of his old audience a bit. I am pretty sure some of them wouldn’t recover from the blow.

        2. Besides South Park and the original MST3K, Tough Crowd was the best show produced by Comedy Central.

          The humor and political discussion was more thoughtful than anything produced by Stewart or Colbert.

        3. The best thing about TQwCQ was Greg Giraldo (RIP).

      2. If I recall correctly, he said in interviews that they tried more jokes making fun of the Left, but the audience didn’t like it, so they stopped.

        1. So they’re capitalists. Check.

  4. I don’t watch much tv at all. It is mostly because of people like Williams and Stewart. The insufferable twaddle they peddle bores me to tears.

    The only thing worse than Williams and Stewart is reading saccharine sendoffs and the serious attempts at analysis of their trivial actions.

    I’ll read Nick whether I agree with his premise or not, but I can’t wait for these two clowns to sink into irrelevancy and obscurity.

    /getoffmylawnoldmanmoment

  5. Stewart didn’t kill off the nightly news or broadcast news. Those shows still get far more viewers than The Daily Show, and far more Millennials than the Daily Show. The internet is what is killing the nightly news – not some comedy show.

    1. THAT.

      Young people were not watching the nightly news before the Daily Show and they still are not now.

      1. Let’s get Reason/Rupe on this stat!

  6. I think I posted it too late last night, but an article in the Seattle Times essentially admitted that progressives got their straight news from The Daily Show.

    I thought we were just snarking about that.

  7. I was listening to a (non-political) radio station today, where the host was saying how disappointed she was that Jon Stewart is retiring. She then suggested Russell Brand as a replacement. Christ, what a bloody train wreck that would be, the Daily Show run by a drug addled, Messiah complex nutter.

    1. It might be less boring than the current show.

      1. Admittedly it would be funny to see Brand scream abuse at a Hugo Boss event about their association with Nazi Germany, then jump in a Mercedes and drive off again.

        1. No a Porsche Panomara.

          I would give him the gig and make sure there was every drug imaginable available in the Green Room.

  8. Who gives a fuck that this overrated piece of shit is leaving?

    Oh, Nick, apparently.

    You’re slipping badly, Gillespie.

    1. Stewart is a really big deal to millenial douche bag journalists. This is why he gets so much attention even though most of the country barely knows who he is.

  9. Maybe Comendy Central should hire Brian Williams to replace John Stewart. Since he makes shit up anyway…

  10. The Daily Show has about a million and a half viewers. Brian Williams had 9 million viewers.

    It’s pretty much a completely different audience.

  11. It is easy to forget that the Daily show is not his show. He is not the producer and it was there before he got there.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person that remembers Craig Kilborn on that show, and that the show was far superior to Stewarts version.

    1. No you aren’t.
      The Bud Light MVP.
      The interview with Robot Dave from the Beat it video. Beth Littleford asking Jocelyn Elder about masturbation. Kilborn’s 5 questions.

  12. It just pains me to watch any show where the audience laughs at dumb/vulgar. I will forever question what is in the water in New York after watching Letterman. The only good aspect of that show was the musical and standup guests.

  13. How about Dennis Miller as his replacement? That’d be awesome just for the collective head explosion of the Daily Show’s current trained seal audience.

    Although I’m just longing for the days of Norm MacDonald appearances on the old Dennis Miller show on HBO(?). Maybe the funniest shit ever.

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