I grew up with a pretty conservative family, which I feel like needs it’s own support group sometimes. I remember my dad “jokingly” telling me I was going to walk home if I had voted for Al Gore in my elementary school’s mock election. I once got chewed out by my grandma when I finally snapped and yelled at Sean Hannity on the radio while I was in the car with her. Every family get together where the conversation turns to politics feels like it’s finally going to be the day I get tossed on the fire, especially when I get asked for my opinion as the lone family liberal. The only time I’ve ever actually felt safe expressing political opinion around family is when my grandpa used to pick me up from college to drive me back to Cartersville for the weekend and would let me vent. My dad and I can usually talk it out, but it took us a long time to get there.
Obviously, politics is a touchy subject when it comes to me and my family, but I know it could have been a lot worse if I had played along just to appease them and there are really two things I credit to keeping me from doing this: American Idiot by Green Day and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.American Idiot opened the door for me being able to remotely consider that maybe the opinion of my family wasn’t necessarily the right or only one out there, but The Daily Show really helped cement that for me. Growing up in a conservative family, Fox News was the only news source taken seriously. To be able to watch something that not only openly made fun of Fox News, but the supposedly “super liberal” CNN as well, it was like a revelation. Add Colbert’s nightly dose of sarcasm after that (that I actually stopped watching for a year at one point because it was too strong) and I was suddenly able to laugh at my surroundings when I couldn’t before.
My periods of devoutly watching The Daily Show would wax and wane depending on what my life was like at the time, but I remember watching it religiously throughout the 2008 and 2012 elections in order to keep my sanity. The first person who confirmed for me that Obama had won the election was Jon Stewart. The 2009 Writer’s Strike where Jon, Stephen and Conan O’Brien all interacted with each other’s shows for material is still some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen in Late Night to this day. I watched John Oliver’s run as host with excitement as he tackled the summer of Carlos Danger with aplomb and ended up getting his own gig because of it. The first correspondent I remember watching was Samantha Bee, so she always had a place in my heart, but Jessica Williams, Aasiv Mandvi, Ed Helms, and Lewis Black were the true faves in terms of correspondents. Though, there was something to be said for when Jason Jones would get so annoyed that he’d drop the act and just call people on their shit.Nowadays, I’m a little more preferential to John Oliver and his ability to dig further into topics that The Daily Show didn’t have time to cover and I love what Larry Wilmore has been doing with The Nightly Show. The last full bit I watched from The Daily Show before the final episode was Seth Rollins crashing the set to call Jon a “corporate monkey,” making that feud immediately better than whatever is happening with Cena right now. But with The Colbert Report and Jon Stewart’s run on The Daily Show ending within eight months of each other, it does feel like a chapter on part of my life has closed.
Without Stewart and Colbert, I don’t think I would have been able to come to terms with my own world views as soon as I did. They weren’t perfect and as I got older, I was able to see that more, but to a girl in a place that thought being liberal was a sin, that hour long block of fake news was a bit of peace and sanity every night. Stewart referred to the show as a conversation between him and the audience that he would often hog, but The Best Fucking News Team were some of the only people in news media I could trust and feel safe with.So goodbye to Jon Stewart. Thank you for making me laugh for a better part of a decade and having a brilliant team that worked hard to dig through the bullshit to make people laugh when it would feel like the world was on fire. Thank you for helping me come to terms with who I was and what I stood for in the days when I could have easily just have parroted my family to save my own skin. I’ve evolved my own views due to many other factors, but the foundation is truly rooted from watching you host The Daily Show in my room at night after my parents fell asleep. For that, I am forever grateful, and I hope that Trevor Noah continues and evolves that legacy.
For all those moments of zen, thank you.