Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ resignation marks end of era

Matt Barney, sports writer

Now that we’ve had a couple weeks to get over the initial shock and digest the news that Jon Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show later this year, it’s time to take a look back at just how important the show truly was.

Jon Stewart’s brand of politically infused comedy has been just as influential on my outlook on government, politics and the world we live in as just about any other figure of the last 20 years. That may sound odd to some of you, but for a generation of young liberals, The Daily Show is the lens through which we view current events.

Stewart took over the show from Craig Kilborn in January 1999. During this incredible 16-year run, the show has racked up 18 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards and has been honored by GLAAD, the Television Critics Association and the Satellite Awards. Stewart and the rest of The Daily Show staff’s 2004 book America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction was recognized by Publishers Weekly as its “Book of the Year.” Its abridged audiobook edition received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. And In September 2010, Time magazine selected the series as one of “The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time.” That fact, however, doesn’t even begin to account for the show’s cultural impact.

The Show became a launching pad for many of today’s top comedic stars including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Olivia Munn, Rob Corddry, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, John Oliver, Lewis Black, Kristen Schaal, Larry Wilmore, Wyatt Cenac and Aasif Mandvi, just to name a few. The Daily Show has also spawned similar shows in countries around the globe, often in places where satire is considered a crime. These shows are helping open those societies up to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Stewart’s ability to connect with young people and deliver the day’s news in a way that made sense to them was one of the keys to his diehard group of viewers. According to the Nielson Company, the show currently draws 2.5 million viewers per night, and that doesn’t account for the millions of additional DVR recordings, online viewers and occasional viewers.

Stewart had a unique ability to switch seamlessly between interviewing world leaders, political figures, celebrities and athletes without losing his trademark humor. His opinions were never watered down, and his criticism was usually fair. He had a way to cut right through all the nonsense and get straight to the heart of an issue.

Comedy Central executives have already come out and said they will find a replacement for Stewart and keep the show going. The show survived one change in hosts, but I believe it could be hard-pressed to survive another. Stewart took 12 weeks off from the show in 2013 to film his movie Rosewater and was replaced by Oliver during this time. Oliver did an excellent job in his absence but has since moved on to HBO for his own show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Colbert will take over David Letterman’s role on CBS’ The Late Show later this year leaving him out of the equation, and Wilmore now has The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Whoever Comedy Central finds to take Stewart’s spot as host will have gigantic shoes to fill. I will tune in to see what route the show chooses to take, but one thing is abundantly clear: This is the end of an era.