Jon Stewart likely has a complicated relationship with The Daily Show. On the one hand, he’s been an iconic, biting host, assailing both the media and politicians amidst the information age. On the other hand, he’s been very open about the toll it takes on his soul, constantly being the bearer of bad news and outrage to a public and system that often doesn’t want to listen.
Last night’s bittersweet end to his tenure as The Daily Show host reflected that paradox. He laughed, he cried, and he went down memory lane with many of the correspondents that helped Stewart make the show a truly unique voice amid all the snark, hype, and double-talk that he criticized other shows for partaking in.
The show that capped off a sixteen-year hosting run featured a parade of former players, many of whom made big names for themselves after their roles on the show. Josh Gad and Steve Carell appeared, as did the old guard of hosts like Vance DeGeneres and Mo Rocca. Wyatt Cenac, despite a rocky history with the host that purportedly included a physical confrontation, showed up to make a joke about the awkwardness.
OF COURSE, we knew we weren’t going to get through the show without a Stephen Colbert appearance. The trajectories of the two hosts have always made for an interesting comparison. Colbert stole the show as a correspondent on Stewart’s Daily Show, then left to create a (rival) comparable show with The Colbert Report. But the love was always there. And now, as Stewart looks to a quieter retirement, Colbert is gearing up for the gig of a lifetime taking over for David Letterman on CBS’ Late Show. Colbert, as he always does, made Stewart crack up, but also tear up as the prospect of what Stewart was leaving hit home one last time.
In a nice touch that ended up serving the fans as much as the staff, the show took a cue from Goodfellas and offered up a long tracking shot through the offices, acknowledging many of the folks that have been putting the show together behind-the-scenes for almost two decades.
While we all expected this finale (and all finales, really) to be a little self-serving, we didn’t expect it to raise $2.2 million for charity. That’s a nice touch that will likely have a bigger impact than the episode of television will.
#JonVoyage: Stewart’s final @TheDailyShow earned more than $2.2 million for charity http://t.co/vdRaJizKxc pic.twitter.com/MWXhfhFFJ5
— Paste Magazine (@PasteMagazine) August 7, 2015
It was a pitch-perfect goodbye to a host who has pretty much BECOME the show he took over. Follow-up Trevor Noah has some huge shoes to fill, but that wasn’t the focus last night. Last night was about Jon Stewart and his legacy.