Time for a Drink

Jon Stewart has said goodbye to “The Daily Show,” an American news satire program. His comedic freedom made him one of the last independent journalists to be appreciated by both ends of the political spectrum.

Maybe you had to be at Elixir, a bar in San Francisco, when Jon Stewart’s final show aired to understand what the satirist, comedian and actor meant to liberal-minded America. The debate between 10 presidential candidates from the Republican Party was being shown on no fewer than four television screens, but the people in the bar were not interested and instead were chatting loudly about their day at work. They paid little attention to the numerous Republican candidates, whether it was the businessman and undisputed maverick, Donald Trump, or the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, who was speaking; no one was listening anyway.

At precisely 8 p.m. on this Thursday evening, however, daily life was forgotten and the bar went quiet. Those who didn’t want to stop talking were told with a stern, “Shhh!” that it was time for silence.

Their attention was due to the fact it was the last day for Jon Stewart as host of the satirical news program, “The Daily Show,” which Stewart has hosted for more than 16 years and nearly 2,000 episodes on Comedy Central. The program is the template for the “Heute Show” hosted by Oliver Welke on the German television channel ZDF on Fridays, unless it’s the summer break, like now. In the bar in San Francisco, however, there was no summer break and “The Daily Show” is rather different from its German imitator. It’s a national institution, the most important satirical program in the country. Everyone waited for the final show to begin with Stewart behind the desk. No one at the bar wanted to miss the famous last words of the satirical anchorman; the best words famously come at the end and there haven’t been many others who have had more to say than the 53-year-old comedian. Time magazine called him one of the most influential people years ago and he and his show have received almost two dozen television awards.

The Freedom of a Comedian To Say Everything

Stewart’s success has been continuous, but the show host nevertheless announced his departure in the spring. It is effectively the end of an era, as some in the media are calling it. Since 1999, from Monday through Thursday, Stewart has been making fun of the American news and current politicians, and then some. He has made jokes about just about everyone who’s anyone in America’s political class. First and foremost, of course, that meant conservative politicians because Stewart is more liberally inclined, which he has occasionally clearly expressed. Where Welke regularly criticizes the FDP and AfD parties on German TV, Stewart concentrates on the Republican Party. Although many people have accused him of being too close to the Democrats and Barack Obama, he doesn’t mince his words when he makes Democrats the object of his satire.

Stewart was thus something like the last independent television journalist in America. Other journalists muddled along and refrained from certain issues out of self-imposed restraint. Stewart, on the other hand, had the freedom of a comedian to ask anything that occurred to him, which wasn’t to everyone’s taste. In one show this week Stewart said of himself that he wouldn’t miss himself. Fans and opponents alike obviously see this differently, however. On his last “Daily Show,” everyone who Stewart hadn’t spared had their say one more time in recorded messages, including the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and current Secretary of State John Kerry. One of those who sent farewell wishes was Republican Sen. John McCain, at whom Stewart had often taken aim. It is a sign of how much this host, who is considered liberal, was appreciated by both ends of the political spectrum in the United States.

Precisely for this reason, he will be missed by everyone, whether in the Elixir bar in San Francisco or on Capitol Hill in Washington, where U.S. politics are made. Best of luck to his successor, Trevor Noah, the 31-year-old son of a black South African father and a Swiss mother, who in his own words owes his sharp-tongued jokes to his childhood in the country of apartheid. Perhaps he will be able to fulfill everyone’s hopes for him. Stewart was the accepted thorn in the side of American politics, even if he, more than once on his show, said the F-word.

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