Don't worry... I am not smashing things. Even though, after an American t.v. hero signed off this week... it was almost tempting...
Like so many of my fellow millennials and Americans, I was sad to see Jon Stewart's long, successful run as host of The Daily Show come to an end. Having spent many nights sprawled out in bed listening to the wise words of one of our generation's most influential "newsmen", his final show was truly bittersweet.
Stewart, who took over the reins of an offbeat show on Comedy Central way back in 1999, finally signed off after an impressive, and incredibly influential era, in which he interviewed the "who's who" in politics and pop culture on a nightly basis and offered moments of zen that tried to make sensible commentary out of current events. Along the way, Stewart kick-started the careers of Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, John Oliver, and so many others.
Critics argued Stewart was smug and too soft on liberals. While it's true the show was probably far less enjoyable to those folks who are more politically conservative, I am willing to bet even they had to laugh at Stewart's jokes and nod their head at his points from time to time.
After all, Stewart at times (see his post 9/11 shows) transcended the divisions of American television viewership to deliver biting satire and hilarious segments that showcased some of the more absurd and confounding elements of American politics and media. Along with Colbert, he increased young people's involvement in politics when he organized the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in 2010, an event that asked Americans to calm down and be less divisive and vitriolic in our political lives. Over the years, he started so many conversations across dorm rooms, dinner tables, and work desks. I'll miss that.
Though re-runs will continue, they just don't do it for me. I will certainly miss being able to come home from a long day and hear Jon make some sense of it all. It was great growing up in alongside The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and all I can really say is thank you.
In the post Jon Stewart Daily Show (and Colbert Report) world, I was left wondering where we can go to find someone who can fill the void. The more I think about it, there is no one person who really can fill Jon's shoes and place in our heart, but there is a way that Jon's influence can persevere.
We may not have his team of writers or his comic ability, but we have brains. As Jon warned in his memorable final monologue, "bulls--t is everywhere ... The best defense against the bulls--t is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something." It seems Jon meant that as a call to action. He was saying don't let it end with his show ending, but rather, keep questioning, keep fighting for truth and justice.
Instead of tuning in to Jon every night, we can think critically and formulate our own assessment of current events. We can use our own brilliant and free-thinking minds to obtain our news from a variety of sources. We can use our voices to criticize the ironies, hypocrisies, and madness of the political stories we hear about. We can have influence if we remain vigilant watchdogs. Maybe, if we see fake political rumors spreading like wildfire on Facebook, we can be brave, we can counteract it with a series of facts from a neutral source.
Pondering these thoughts, thinking about how we can even attempt to fill the Jon Stewart-sized hole in our lives, there were places that came to mind when I thought about how we could strive to spread truth and humor just like Jon did for so many years.. and this is the list:
1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: One of Stewart's correspondents has soared in his weekly show that follows a similar format to the Stewart's show. You'll of course have to 1) wait a little longer for new episodes because it isn't daily, and 2) have HBO mooch off your friend's friend's parents' HBO Go subscription because it doesn't play on basic cable.
2. PoliticFact Checks: Stewart's show didn't need to sensationalize news stories or skew the facts in the stories on the show. He was critical of news networks having a sensationalize-arms race ofnews shows competing for the most exaggerated, dramatic, ratings-surge-seeking headlines and tackled the issues with humor. Politifact is a team of journalists and researchers who have developed a "truth-o-meter" that assesses claims that political figures have made as either true or untrue or somewhere in between. The site usually posts at least once to their Facebook page every day.
3. The Onion continues to kill it with articles such as Obama's Post-Presidency Plans and Huckabee Campaign Suspended After Candidate Trapped In Briar Patch. Careful though, you may think some of these headlines are real or think a real headline is from The Onion.
4. The Borowitz Report. Much like a Stephen Colbert in print. The Borowitz report is a satirical political opinion column that features pieces with such ridiculous headlines as "Trump Fails to Back Up Misogynist Slurs with Anti-Woman Proposals, Rivals Say," and "Sanders Shamelessly Pandering to Voters Who Want to Hear Truth."
5. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Because, let's give the kid a chance. People once wondered who Jon Stewart was back when he replaced Craig Kilborn (who?) as the host of the Daily Show. The South-African has big shoes to fill but he's already getting some laughs with his brand new promo video.
6. Cartoons - Political cartoons have been around for ages but they are oftentimes hidden gems. This site is a good daily collection of cartoons found on the web. Mike Thompson's cartoons in the Detroit Free Press are sometimes interesting to see. Though his cartoons are polarizing and are accompanied by a particularly nasty comment section, it is the only major weekly cartoon regularly referencing Michigan and Detroit politics and current events as far as I know.
7. There is a subreddit on Reddit dedicated to political humor.
8. Your friends. Instead of sitting on the couch devouring snacks and listening to someone talk about politics on t.v. or laying in bed reading about politics on the internet, try talking about the important issues of the day with your friends. I am not saying to bring up a contentious topic that could ruin a friendship, rather talk politics with trusted friends, regardless of affiliation, as long as they are respectful and both sides attempt to base their arguments in facts and avoiding personal attacks and name calling, you'll be making the founding fathers proud and exercising your American freedoms of speech.
9. Watch a comedy about politics, such as the t.v. shows Parks n' Rec or Veep.
Good luck, friends.
Steve Zoski (@z0ski) manages the volunteer program of the Michigan Science Center, a Midtown Detroit institution that makes STEM learning fun even for a liberal arts guy like himself. He is a proud University of Michigan alum, and is addicted to reading almost as much as he is addicted to coffee. The coolest "person" he knows is actually a dog.