Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jon Stewart and the Beginning of the End of the Smirk

Today Jon Stewart announced that he's leaving "The Daily Show" later this year.

So as long as we're making announcements, I have one, too.

I really don't like Jon Stewart.

It might be that fucking smirk, or it might be...
no, it's pretty much that fucking smirk.
Don't get me wrong. I actually think he's brilliant. He's extremely smart, he's very funny, and he may be among the best television interviewers ever.

But watching him for more than five or 10 minutes sets my goddamn teeth on edge.

That fucking smirk.
Because I'm way old, I remember when Jon Stewart was just starting out as the co-host of "Short Attention Span Theater" on the Comedy Channel in 1989.

Proto-smirk. But that floppy hair, though.
Then he had his own talk show on MTV in the 90s.

Believe it or not, having Howard Stern as one of his
first guests was considered a coup. LOL.
In 1999, he took over Comedy Central's (motto: "We've come a long way since we were the shitty Comedy Channel, mostly because we dumped Nick Bakay") "The Daily Show" from original host Craig Kilborn.

Remember Craig Kilborn? No?
It doesn't matter.
Back then, we still watched television on small, bulbous analog screens. But the Stewart smirk was there from the beginning.

Maybe it was the suit that put it there.
Jon took "The Daily Show" from a fizzy pop-culture roundup to an ever more politically-focused show, presumably because he was frightened by a Nixon watch as a child.

I legit wanted one of these when I was five.
Eventually he realized something that I also accept as gospel: As long as you're smart and reasonably funny, you can get away with saying some outrageous shit.

(Which reminds me of another post I need to write about my adventures on Twitter. DON'T LET ME FORGET, GUYS.)

Over time, audiences realized that Jon Stewart's outrageous shit actually was at least as honest and factual as the "serious" news outlets, if not more so. And by 2009, he was the most trusted newsperson in America (ironically beating out Brian Williams, who, uh, made his own news today).

#1 smug face in American TV journalism.
Again, I think Jon Stewart is a great comedian (or at least has a great comedy writing team). I think he's passionate about current events and intelligent enough to meld the two in a way that is consistently entertaining and compelling to a large audience.

But here's the thing. I think that Jon Stewart, along with Hillary Clinton, represents everything that is wrong with liberalism today.

And that's coming from someone who really crowds the left-hand side of the moderate line.

Holding on to Canada, reaching for Sweden, that's me.
The problem so many moderates and liberals have with the far right is that its most prominent proponents freeze-day complex issues into hard little nuggets of ideology, then slap their own faces onto them like a brand label and call it truth.

Even without the hand gesture, you know
you're hearing from an asshole.
Well, the left is totally not immune from the same tactics. It's just that, instead of anger and righteous indignation about 'Murican values, the paragons of liberalism smile with a blend of pity and patronization while they effectively marginalize anyone who doesn't fall under the spell of their shining light of progressivism.

The official motto of the left is "Bless your heart."
Don't get me wrong: I think that wrapping yourself in the flag while shaming the poor and treating women like chattel is far, far worse than tattooing "Jesus was a socialist" on your ass and then shooting rainbows out of it. 

Not as easy as it looks.
But just as I believe that credible conservatives shouldn't have to be so goddamn angry all the time, I believe that credible liberals shouldn't have to resort to epic smugness as their default setting.

Don't make me take that bet.
That's why I only ever watched the "must-see" clips from "The Daily Show" as they appeared on social media, and why I backed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton back in 2008 (and hell, why I refused to vote for Bill Clinton in 1996 or Al Gore in 2000). There's no room for bullying, or condescension, or stridency, if you own your convictions. Sincerity is a pretty bright light. All the rest is theater and the cult of personality.

I wish Jon Stewart the very best, no matter where he goes after "The Daily Show." But man, I hope wherever he lands, I like him more.


  1. If you never like Jon Stewart that's okay. Different people have different tastes. That's why there are three hundred different flavors of ice cream.

    I just wish our politicians came in as many flavors. It would reflect the diversity that's out there.

  2. I adore Jon Stewart....I also REALLY like this perspective...great article, my friend...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I'm with you, lady. Of course, I am the one person who voted for Paul Tsongas in the Dem primary over Bill Clinton....


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