On Wednesday April 29th, Jon Stewart interviewed Judith Miller on The Daily Show. As a long time (and continuing fan) of the show I had no interest in the interview. Stewarts interviews for years have been stale and worthless, never biting with the satire that his opening rants are. But then the think pieces started coming out.
“Jon Stewart smacks down Judith Miller: You drove us into the “devastating” Iraq war” was the headline of the Salon piece that got me to watch the interview. And by God was that revelatory. Make no mistake, the Judith Miller interview is the best interview Jon Stewart has done in years. It is also the signal that it really is time for Jon to retire.
Stewart was on point last night. He gave Miller her chance to make her case, and knew every moment to hit her back by going through the history piece by piece. Like a real life Sorkin-esque prosecutor, Stewart was getting to the heart of the issues at hand in a way that so many fans of the show have been craving. He asked the hard questions and stood his ground with Miller in the way he never has with politicians sitting across from him.
I know that there is an unwritten contract among journalists and politicians that you don’t hit too hard in interviews or the politicians won’t step into the ring. I get it. However, Larry Wilmore has made something clear lately that I think Stewart has forgotten – people care about keeping it 100.
I haven’t watched every episode of The Nightly Show since it aired. I don’t always stay up to date on either show (unlike Last Week Tonight but that’s another story) but I remember one of the first episodes of The Nightly Show when Senator Cory Booker was a part of the panel. I don’t remember the question during the ‘Keep it 100’ segment but I remember the sound of the audience when Booker gave a politicians answer and I remember Larry Wilmore throwing him some weak tea.
Keeping it 100, cutting through the bullshit, keeping public figures accountable: this is what Jon Stewart has stopped doing with his show. His opening rants are cathartic for liberals like me. He is keeping the news media accountable and does a good job of talking through the news and provides a voice for those of us who often don’t know how to verbalize our frustrations.
I remember specifically when the Rob Ford hoopla was going on how his reaction to the “I’ve got more than enough to eat at home” line was exactly what so many of us needed. There was a lot of anger and shock at that line, and I remember watching that and feeling like he was giving me permission to laugh.
But simply offering catharsis to the choir isn’t what is needed any more, and I hope Trevor Noah can be the voice that we need in today’s climate. John Oliver is with some of the best investigative journalism we’ve seen in the new media world. Larry Wilmore is with segments that seek to cut through the bullshit and quite frequently do. Amy Schumer, Nick Kroll, and Key and Peele are with sketch comedy that is as funny as it is biting.
Jon Stewart should always be remembered as being the ironic and cynical voice that so many of us needed when we didn’t know what to say. But it’s time for more radical, shocking, courageous, and revolutionary voices to take the comedy stage. We need our comedians to continue revealing the truth in the absurdity, and Stewart just isn’t cutting it any more.