Why we should mourn The Daily Show departure of Jon Stewart

A blog from The Drum's editor, Stephen Lepitak, covering reaction to events in media, social media, marketing, advertising and communications in general.

I suspect, remembering back to when The Daily Show started, even Jon Stewart is surprised by the success both he and the programme have achieved.

That is has lasted nearly two decades and will potentially outlive us all – depending on the success of his successor(s) – is indicative of just how right he was as the host of a programme that aimed to cross The Tonight Show with a product from CNN.

In Stewart we had a host who connected with his audience. Was likeable, relatable, rarely smug or controversial, and more often than you remember, passionate about the news of the day.

While Letterman and Leno battled it out for the King of Comedy crown, Stewart was always the winner for me. He was still a part of the world while his counterparts seemed removed in their mansions from the streets of normality.

Few people remember Craig Kilborn was the original host – that's how much Stewart owned this show.

At the same time, and after 16 years this is no small compliment to both Stewart and his writers, he was always funny too. And his audiences and guests loved him for that. It's what made the programme, I would argue, alongside the usually sharp writing.

He has interviewed presidents (the always media savvy Obama) and politicians galore, authors and experts on the world and given America and beyond insight on news that was satirical but also frank and often said what Americans were unable to convey before the days of social media came along. Being the voice to a large part of a nation as mighty as America is no easy role but Stewart more than lived up to it.

He kept news outlets in check, when reporting on major topics; not meeting the market would make you a target for the Daily Show's ire.

Donald Trump's presidential campaigners will rejoice that Stewart no longer has their leader in their sites but he will continue to be a golden well for the writing staff to drink from.

He could be criticised for being a soft interview at times – see when he had Tom Cruise on as a guest recently and failed to mention the once again hot topic of scientology – although he is far from alone there. And at time he could grandstand when there was no one there to argue with him. But he was unique in many ways – Stephen Colbert is not the same thing no matter how much anyone argued he was an obvious choice as successor.

Whether or not Trevor Noah can succeed in what must be the hardest job in comedy – and I have to admit to having my doubts – Stewart has set the standard extremely high. He'll be missed, as will Gitmo, by more than just Comedy Central that's for sure.

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLepitak

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