The Daily Show was 15 years old this past Thursday, and for the past 12 years it's been The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.Since then, the program has won over a dozen Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards, and 44% of those participating in a 2009 Time magazine online poll voted Stewart "America's most trusted newscaster," 15% ahead of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.
Stewart calls his show "fake news," and while the segments feature biting satire and over the top delivery, it often reports stories with far more impact and context than corporate media outlets. It's particularly incisive when the show's staff of researchers assembles clips of politicians contradicting or denying prior statements. "What is it with you guys?" Stewart once asked after one the damning compilations. "Don't you realize we save the tapes?"
The most egregious example was Senator John McCain. The Arizona Republican's self-deprecating style and maverick persona had been a Stewart favorite, and McCain appeared 15 times between 1999 and the start of his 2008 presidential campaign. But the senator's prevarications and backtracking finally prompted The Daily Show to produce one of its sharpest, most scathing segments:
While other media outlets did cover McCain's brain-detonating "I'm not a maverick" claim, only The Daily Show and, later, David Letterman, excoriated McCain for his reversals and outright lies.
Some claim Stewart's incessant, near-religious hammering of disingenuous, dishonest leaders and media figures increases the level of cynicism in the country and causes diminished participation in elections and other civic functions. I disagree. Unlike "real" news and commentary shows, Stewart's idealism has a sharp, deadly edge that is enervating.
Take MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews' appearance on the show to promote his book "Life's A Campaign." While a smart, personable guy, I've never cared for Matthews. He's a professional cynic whose take on government and politics reduces them to the level of professional sports. The effect of an election or Congressional vote on the United States or its citizens? Who cares? What's important is the game, a game to be won through strategy and manipulation. I could only read a few chapters, and tossed it aside in disgust. Matthews' advice bordered on the sociopathic. He advocated using the same exploitative and Machiavellian techniques politicians employ to win elections to succeed in day-to-day life. It should cause the superego of any decent human being to recoil in distaste and horror.
Stewart dived in with guns blazing. "You're trashing my book!," Matthews complains in the clip below. "I'm not trashing your book," Stewart explains. "I'm trashing your philosophy of life."
Matthews called it "the worst interview of my life." Well, at least it was the most honest.
During his tenure as host, Stewart's delivered some rather memorable quotes, and I've collected here the ones I most like.
Happy Birthday, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We've been through a lot. I can't imagine making it through the 2012 election without you.
Quotes by Jon Stewart:
Arizona is the meth lab of democracy.
As someone who is not Christian, it is hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America... maybe, God willing, one of you will rise up and get to be President of this country; or maybe 44 in a row.
Even the Stock-Pickin' Chicken is right some of the time.
Every country has at least one museum that says "Here's why we chased you out."
Everyone knows if a Republican comes out of the closet and sees a gay shadow, it means six more years of a Democratic administration.
I know the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, but what I didn't realize is that those people are assholes.
I view America like this: 70 to 80 percent [are] pretty reasonable people that truthfully, if they sat down, even on contentious issues, would get along. And the other 20 percent of the country run it.
If I'd only followed CNBC's advice, I'd have a million dollars today. Provided I'd started with a hundred million dollars.
If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.
If you don't stick to your values when they're being tested, they're not values- they're hobbies.
If you have too many white people at a rally, then your cause is racist. And if you have too many people of color at a rally, you must be asking for something.
It does not matter what we say or do; it matters only what is reported about what we say or do.
It doesn't make it a gotcha question just because it got ya.
It feels like all the people who want limited government really just want government limited to Republicans.
No one's going to march in the streets carrying a sign that says "Be Reasonable!"
Religion is kinda like nuclear power: you split the atom this way, you get electricity; you split it that way, you get an atomic bomb.
Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion. If America leads a blessed life, then why did God put all of our oil under people who hate us?
The congressman had a sex scandal and had to apologize to Bill Clinton? For what? Copyright infringement?
The wisdom of the masses is not always... wise.
They always throw around this term "the liberal elite." And I kept thinking to myself about the Christian right. What's more elite than believing that only you will go to heaven?
We need religion to give grace and comfort to a world torn apart by religion.
You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: It wasn't that long ago that we were swept away by The Macarena.