While it has been very hard recognizing that I have to say goodbye to Hannibal this summer, there was one television addiction of mine that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over. And that is Jon Stewart’s retirement from The Daily Show.
Look, I managed to finish this book before his last show, but I’m kind of glad that I’ve fallen behind on reviews again because I was a mess after the episode. Basically, when Stephen Colbert came out and thanked him, I was a goner. Tears just ran down my face and would not let up for at least an hour.
You guys, you don’t even know. I have been watching The Daily Show for just about Jon’s entire tenure. I can barely remember watching his first post-9/11 show and yes, bawling then, but for different reasons. He … he really was my Walter Cronkite. I was one of those people who got their news from The Daily Show, and yes, I know that he always proclaimed himself to be nothing more than a mere comedian, but … he was so much more than a mouthpiece. In his later years, when tragedies seemed to occur more and more frequently, he would show the human underneath the suit.
I could go on – and will, when I finally finish reading The Daily Show and Philosophy (I’m like, twenty pages away from the end. It’s ridiculous. But I also can’t remember where I put it. I have a scary feeling that it’s on my kitchen table, which is currently buried with a whole bunch of detritus…. whoops…). Basically, Jon Stewart and his tenure of The Daily Show helped me get in touch with national politics and to see the way our government and media are run, and how absolutely fuckwitted backwards the whole system is.
Let’s go back in time to when Jon Stewart was best-known as Adam Sandler’s lawyer friend in Big Daddy. He hadn’t quite given up on his acting … not dream, but “direction his agent was pushing him in.” And in-between The Faculty and landing The Daily Show, Jon sat down and had a collection of short, humorous essays published. Even in 1998, he was adept at skewering celebrity culture and had a knack for shining a light on the dark side of politics.
Take, for example, “Breakfast at Kennedy’s,” wherein our narrator is a young Jewish school chum of Johnny F. Kennedy. JFK brings the unnamed narrator back to the Hyannis compound for summer break, which is actually code for “slave labor.” The narrator at one point stumbles into the basement where all of the not-politically-correct offspring of the Kennedy family are kept. There are also the transcripts of Gerald Ford’s presidential recordings, because he didn’t realize Nixon had left them on (“Lack of Power: The Ford Tapes”).
But mostly, Jon lets famous people have it (hence, the title). I wonder if he revisited his essay “The Recipe” when he was first tapped to host the Oscars. “Martha Stewart’s Vagina” takes a classic Martha Stewart-sounding recipe for decoration and applies it to … well, to the vagina. Make of it what you will. “Five Under Five” skewers the traditional “Thirty Under Thirty” articles People and US Weekly would put out, only this time, it’s about toddlers who are sure to shake the world up when they come of age.
Some of the essays are a trifle dated at this point: “A Very Hanson Christmas, 1996-1999” probably aged the worst out of all of them. Also, “Vincent and Theo on AOL,” wherein Vincent Van Gogh writes to his brother Theo via the ancient medium of the AOL chatroom is virtually (heh) unrecognizable in this day and age.
I think the essay that most shows Jon’s dark side to humor, however, is “Pen Pals.” This essay imagines a very one-sided pen-pal relationship between Princess Diana and Mother Theresa. It just … it stings, a little bit.
After reading Naked Pictures of Famous People, I’m curious if Jon will return to his humor-writing roots. I know he and his wife are going to run an animal sanctuary in his beloved New Jersey (if the man has to have a flaw, it’s got to be his love for New Jersey), and I truly don’t expect to see him on television again any time soon, unless it’s to help his brethren (Colbert, Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, John Oliver, et. al) out for something. I almost don’t expect to see him at the Emmys next week. NOT THAT I’M GOING TO WATCH THE EMMYS I KNOW BETTER THAN THAT
ALTHOUGH IF TATIANA MASLANY DOESN’T WIN BEST ACTRESS
I WILL BURN THE ENTIRE PLACE TO THE GROUND
ANYWAY. I would be very interested in reading a new collection of essays by Jon. I would be interested in reading a list of Jon’s favorite Bruce Springsteen songs.
Basically, I’m still sad that he’s retired – not that I blame him the least; I’m still surprised he didn’t throw a shoe at the camera in frustration with the world and our country at some point in the last year. I just don’t want him to go away.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to Jon Stewart just yet.
Grade for Naked Pictures of Famous People: 3 stars