Cult satirist Stewart re­tires from ‘Daily Show’

The China Post - - ARTS - BY BRIGITTE DUSSEAU

Not even U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wants to see him go. But af­ter in­form­ing and en­ter­tain­ing Amer­i­can view­ers for 16 years, Jon Stewart will present his fi­nal episode of “The Daily Show” on Thurs­day.

The con­tent and guests on the last pro­gram on Com­edy Cen­tral are a closely guarded se­cret, but it is sched­uled to last an hour, twice as long as nor­mal.

“Let me make some­thing clear, I’m not dy­ing,” joked Stewart last week as fans won­dered how they could fol­low a new pres­i­den­tial race with­out him slam­ming the can­di­dates four nights a week.

The na­tive New Yorker, 52, funny, piti­less and firmly left of cen­ter, is a unique voice in Amer­i­can broad­cast­ing, and one that in­ter­sects pol­i­tics, jour­nal- ism and en­ter­tain­ment.

“The Daily Show” rakes over the day’s news, po­lit­i­cal head­lines and odd­i­ties to poke fun and make se­ri­ous points, of­ten mock­ing the sen­sa­tion­al­ist cov­er­age of tele­vi­sion net­works, such as Fox News and CNN. Guests are nor­mally sub­mit­ted to a bar­rage of ques­tions.

It is watched by around 1.3 mil­lion Amer­i­cans a day, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of oth­ers watch online, par­tic­u­larly the young who are dis­en­chanted with pol­i­tics and don’t watch TV news.

Some see Stewart as a rock in times of cri­sis. “The comic who be­came a con­science,” wrote the Daily News on Mon­day. “Why John Stewart might be ir­re­place­able,” head­lined Va­ri­ety mag­a­zine.

He was there af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001 at­tacks, in­ca­pable of hold­ing back tears and ask­ing view­ers: “Are you OK?”

When Ge­orge W. Bush was first elected pres­i­dent in 2000, he re­named the con­tro­ver­sial re­count in Florida, “In­de­ci­sion 2000.”

His crit­i­cism of the war in Iraq — al­most alone in the media at the time — fanned doubts about the 2003 U.S.-led in­va­sion.

Scolded by Obama

In June, with the ut­most se­ri­ous­ness, he con­demned the “ter­ror­ist at­tack” on a black church in Charleston and de­nounced the con­tin­ued fly­ing of the Con­fed­er­ate flag.

His po­lit­i­cal guests see him as a plat­form to reach a younger au­di­ence. But they never get an easy ride.

“Can you ever not dis­ap­point us?” he asked of Nancy Pelosi, the Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity leader in the Se­nate in 2014.

“Whose team are we on in the Mid­dle East? Who are we bomb­ing?” he asked Obama dur­ing the pres­i­dent’s last ap­pear­ance on July 21.

“How could the U.S. not be there?” he asked when the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent nor the sec­re­tary of state went to Paris to take part in an in­ter­na­tional march in Jan­uary against the Char­lie Hebdo killings.

Over the years, his crit­ics have as­sailed him.

Fox News al­leged last week that Stewart had had two “se­cret” meet­ings at the White House with Obama in 2011 and 2014.

Stewart ridiculed the idea they were se­cret.

“We spent about five to seven min­utes with Obama kind of scold­ing me not to turn young Amer­i­cans cyn­i­cal, and I spent five to seven min­utes ex­plain­ing to him I am ac­tu­ally skep­ti­cally ide­al­is­tic,” he said.

“Was the pres­i­dent of the United States try­ing to in­flu­ence or in­tim­i­date or flat­ter me?” Stewart asked. “My guess is, uhh-huh. Did it work? Might’ve.”

So what will he do af­ter The Daily Show, which in Septem­ber will re­turn with new host, the South African comic Trevor Noah?

In Fe­bru­ary, he said he wanted a more flex­i­ble sched­ule, cit­ing a de­sire to spend more time with his chil­dren, aged nine and 11.

Af­ter di­rect­ing the 2014 film “Rose­wa­ter,” adapted from a memoir by Cana­dian- Ira­nian jour­nal­ist Maziar Ba­hari, he did not rule out re­turn­ing to the world of stand-up com­edy, where he started in the 1980s af­ter get­ting a de­gree in psy­chol­ogy.

“That’s how I started and that’s, I’m sure, that’s how I will end,” he said.

“The Daily Show” has won 22 Emmy Awards and two Pe­abody Awards. It has also been a spring- board for new tal­ent, launch­ing the tele­vi­sion ca­reers of co­me­di­ans such as Stephen Col­bert.

AP

In this July 15, 2014 file photo, for­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton re­acts to host Jon Stewart dur­ing a tap­ing of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” in New York.

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