On Comedy Central, Jon Stewart owns the most difficult job in daily television. David Letterman once joked, "I'll retire after this job stops being fun … ten years later." In 2015 Letterman intends to relinquish his stellar run.
As much as I love Letterman, who delivers the best opening monologue on night time TV, (Jimmy Fallon, a long ways to go.) I love Jon Stewart more. The Daily Show, including a top notch team of writers and team of "reporters", is a fixture of contemporary life in televised America. But for how long?
On recent nights, seeping through Stewart's open amazement at the hypocrisy of corporate America -- through the response of GM to tragic deaths it caused by a faulty ignition switch -- and the tepid response of Congress to the GM coverup -- through a Congressional hearing implying corporate America cannot be held accountable, period, -- his weariness was visible.
There is a large swath of America for which The Daily Show is its only insight on the news. Particularly, for the young and for people who would rather watch TV than parse newspapers. As good natured as Stewart is -- self protection as the case may be --, the responsibility for high quality humor at targets like Fox News, CNN and our common list of bete noires is a heavy burden.
One struggles to imagine any of the talent that cycled through the Daily Show, including Stephen Colbert, dribbling the minefield of media fakery, abusive corporate behavior and their BBF, American politics, as well as Stewart. I worry how long he can keep going for good reasons. We need his company.
The recent US Supreme Court decision solidifying the role of oligarchs, centi-millionaires, and "free speech" for corporate America through unlimited campaign contributions sent a concussive shock through anyone who believed change was possible in our lifetimes; even with an assist from a steady, scathing application of humor. People will wake up, won't they? Voters will return Congress to its senses, won't they? Here, Stewart says, look! Laugh!
Beneath the humor, Jon Stewart's intelligence shines. I hope it shines for a good deal longer, but under the pressure of so much dismal news, one begins to sense the limits that weigh on this national treasure.