NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jon Stewart said goodbye on Thursday, after 16 years on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” that established him as America’s foremost satirist of politicians and the media.
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, those lucky enough to catch the final show left with a smile and a lot of memories.
“Fantastic, best thing you could ever ask for, all of the correspondents and Springsteen,” one man said.
Another fan told WINS’ Jones that he didn’t get his news from Stewart, he followed the news so he could watch The Daily Show, get the jokes, and laugh along.
Sherry Turner of New York told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith that there is no one quite like Jon Stewart.
“My generation now has to look to new people to make the world smile and be happy, and laugh at ourselves,” Turner said.
Many said under the veil of humor, Stewart was able to inform. With the correspondents throughout the years coming back – including Steve Carell and soon-to-be CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert — along with Bruce Springsteen, Turner said the “Daily Show” went out on top.
“It was 10 times more times a million,” she said. “It was awesome.”
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. He turned the spotlight on himself during his penultimate show Wednesday, noting how institutions he had supposedly eviscerated were stronger than ever.
“The world is demonstrably worse than when I started,” Stewart wailed. “Have I caused this?”
His only solace was that his beloved New York Mets were in first place on the day of his last show.
Fellow comic Louis C.K., his guest Wednesday, noted that Stewart was able to keep his show fresh and funny for a long time, keeping up with the world’s changes. “It really is one of the great comedy accomplishments of all time,” he said.
Stewart merged comedy and the news, dramatically changing the television landscape. His guests are the biggest of the big. President Barack Obama has been on “The Daily Show” seven times, including two weeks ago when he said, “I’m issuing a new executive order, that Jon Stewart cannot leave the show.”
Stewart’s popularity and influence have grown over the years. He has appeared at or near the top of polls as the most trusted voice in America.
Stewart also proved to be an effective advocate, especially when it came to the 9/11 health bill.
“Before he started talking about it no one else was talking about it,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who had been fighting for the bill for years, told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “I believe he was the force that passed the bill.”
With time running out to pass the bill, which provides medical coverage and compensation for sickened responders, Stewart hosted a show with four first responders bringing attention to the measure.
“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done and truth be told I’m not sure that it would’ve been done had Jon not gotten involved,” firefighter Kenny Specht, who was on the show, said. “There was a ground swell of support.”
“It truly was Jon Stewart who dragged this bill over the finish line,” Maloney said.
Stewart’s fans will be forced to navigate the first presidential election since 1996 without his commentary, a loss that felt particularly acute with the first Republican candidates’ debate taking place less than three hours after the taping of his final show. “The Daily Show” airs at 11 p.m. EDT.
Fans had been camped out since 2 a.m. outside the studios at 52nd Street and 11th Avenue for the final taping Thursday.
“He’s the largest liberal pundit and he’s the one person that the young voters need to listen to,” a 22-year-old fan named Chad told 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis.
“He draws so many people in and does it through making them laugh, it’s just a really impressive feat,” a fan named Melissa said.
“Humor makes people let their guard down and then they’re more willing to consider more serious issues,” Kerry Petty told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
“He’s clearly very informed and knowledgeable of the news itself and I think he’s delivering a lot more intelligence than, frankly, a lot of news channels,” said Tyler Muller.
“He got me interested in caring about the world,” said Petty, who came all the way from Atlanta to wait in line. “This is a historic moment.”
“‘The Daily Show’ is an important part of how I grew up and how I was exposed politics and satire,” fan John Bremmer told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport.
It’s the third major farewell for a late-night television personality in eight months. Stewart’s Comedy Central colleague, Colbert, ended “The Colbert Report” in December. David Letterman signed off from CBS in May, to be replaced this fall by Colbert.
Comedy Central put out the word that Stewart’s final show will run longer than the typical half hour, so people recording it on their DVRs won’t be unpleasantly surprised.
Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes, whose network remained intact despite Stewart’s “pulverizing” blows, said that Stewart was a brilliant comedian and nice guy who has a bitter view of the world.
“He’s been after us for years,” Ailes told The Hollywood Reporter. “Occasionally we pay attention. We think he’s funny. We never took it seriously and he never made a dent in us.”
With thousands of words in tributes being 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.
“We worked awfully hard and not every show has been up to snuff,” Stewart said Wednesday. “But we’ve given it our all every single time.”
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