Jon Stewart in a disability advocacy blog?
Yes. And not just because he did a story about how silly it was that the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities wasn’t ratified in the US the first time around (“It’s official: Republicans hate the United Nations more than they like helping people in wheelchairs.”) I remember it well, because I posted on my Facebook page: “Jon Stewart is doing a disability advocacy story. This man is awesome.” (The actual clip is here, but people outside the US may not be able to watch it. Sorry…clips from Comedy Network shows that everyone can see are hard to find these days.)
I’d already declared my admiration for Jon Stewart several times on Facebook, usually out of the blue and for no particular reason, so my friends weren’t really surprised. But even I’d been a bit surprised that an issue that got next to no coverage in the mainstream media had merited a coveted spot in Jon Stewart’s show, and I really was grateful to him.
After his announcement last Tuesday night that later on this year he’ll be handing over the reins to someone else, I found myself much sadder about it than I felt like I should have been. Until I read a Facebook comment on one of the many, many articles that I read later in the week about his impending departure that said (paraphrasing) that this was the only time that the writer had heard about a TV personality leaving a show where he’d walked around feeling sad for the entire next day. And I realized that it’s not just me that’s already dreading the day that Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show.
Discovering Jon Stewart
I started watching The Daily Show when I moved out on my own after my stroke, in 2004. I’d just missed George Bush being elected by a couple of months. Between watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, just in his sophomore year of his own show, a passing interest in American politics became a mild obsession. As the 2008 Election approached, I was dumbfounded. I’d never paid attention to this process before. For someone who was used to federal elections taking six weeks, from announcement to close of polls, it astonished me, and, frankly, sometimes disgusted me. I saw those emotions mirrored back at me every night from Jon Stewart behind his desk at The Daily Show.
Before I knew it, we were doing it again for 2012, and this time I felt knowledgeable enough (and passionate enough) to write about here. The Daily Show was no longer my only source of American news. I watched CNN in the mornings, commiserating with people over Twitter about how terrible…how absolutely terrible…the morning show format was. Unable to get MSNBC or Fox with my cable package, I listened carefully to what people said about them, watched clips, talked to people, formed opinions. I started to realize that I already knew about events that Jon Stewart talked about on the show, feeling a bit guilty that between my consumption of British news to keep up with what was going on with welfare benefit reform, and of American news simply because I was fascinated by it, I knew more more about what was going on in two other countries than I did my own. I try to balance that out now by catching the Canadian news at 6 pm.
What Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” Mean to Me
Rolling Stone Magazine put Jon Stewart’s power over bleeding heart liberals like me nicely in this article:
“…his famous request to Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala of Crossfire — “Stop hurting America” — was a not-so-quiet refrain under everything the host did.”
That “Crossfire” appearance is widely credited to be one of Jon Stewart’s finest moments on television (and the moment that caused the cancellation of the show several months later). Paul Begala had this to say about it when he heard about Jon Stewart’s announcement last Tuesday.
Watch the “Crossfire” interview in question (where Jon Stewart does indeed call Tucker Carlson, now on Fox, a “dick”…I hadn’t caught that until I read Paul Begala’s comments):
But the real reason I’ll miss Jon Stewart? I’m a TV person, as much as I don’t want to be. I live alone. I keep the TV on for noise when I’m doing other things, and when I’m feeling sad/lonely/overwhelmed/anxious, I watch for distraction. Once I moved out on my own, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find a job, but I did. I was a supply Educational Assistant – I was told that because of my disabilities, I wouldn’t be called very often. I got another job. I spent 5 years helping some very brave disabled young people and their families some hard battles that took a lot out of all of us, lost the job because there wasn’t any other work that I could do in the company with my disabilities when my position was cut, and couldn’t find another job for over a year. The sitcoms to which I went for laughs and distraction came and went.
But most weren’t very funny. Jon Stewart and The Daily Show consistently g0t a laugh – sometimes the first laugh in an otherwise dismal day – from me. When the day’s been long and you’re wondering how you’re going to get through the next one, that’s a lot, right there. Jon Stewart gave me a laugh, spoke right to my despairing liberal heart, and made me feel like, somehow, it was going to be okay.
I’ll miss that.
But I understand that no one can do the same job forever.
So, best of luck, Jon Stewart. And thank you to readers for letting me meander a bit…