With Jon Stewart's departure from The Daily Show looming, every reminder of how much we're going to miss him hurts. His wit is as quick as ever. His casual yet brilliant comedic style is unlikely to be carried on by Trevor Noah — or by anyone else, for that matter.
But the biggest reason we're going to miss him come August was exemplified on Wednesday night's show. He faced down guest Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who helped the Bush administration sell the story of the Iraq war to the American people. Ostensibly, Miller was there to promote her book The Story: A Reporter's Journey. Instead, Stewart ripped her apart.
Miller claimed she wrote the book to set the record straight about what happened, but after reading it, Stewart still had questions. For example, why did she not listen to other voices doubting the narrative the Bush administration was selling? Why didn't she ask more questions? Miller's responses ranged from "I wasn't alone" to "we were frightened," and Stewart wasn't having any of it.
It was a masterful show of what happens when a host is not only knowledgeable but passionate. In fact, Stewart got downright angry but maintained his control. His questions were sharp and sophisticated, and he wasn't afraid to go after Miller with pointed follow-up questions.
This is what makes Stewart irreplaceable. He has the institutional memory and bona fides to go after people like Miller with fangs bared and knives drawn. Audiences trust him to ask the right questions, and he consistently shows himself to be worthy of that trust.
Myriad problems with Noah have surfaced since the announcement he'd be taking over the desk, but one that hasn't gotten as much coverage is how ill-fitted he seems to be for the Daily Show role. Sure, he can reinvent the program. It may be very good. But it will not be The Daily Show as Stewart created it. It will not be a trusted source of news and commentary because Noah doesn't have that level of trust. Were he to go after Miller in this way, his passion would ring false.
It's not like anyone else is ready to fill that mold, either. Larry Wilmore possibly could, but his team's immaturity in the format is starting to show. Stephen Colbert's Late Show has potential, but he'll likely take far more cues from his predecessor David Letterman than Stewart. James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Co. are all more about the viral videos than they are the hard-hitting interview. That's fine, of course, but it's disappointing that once Stewart leaves, he'll have created a hole in late night.
Seeing Stewart get so invested in an interview — to see him so thoroughly disregard Miller's promotional push for the book to get to the heart of the matter — is another reminder of how much of a bummer losing his voice will be.
"These discussions always make me incredibly sad," Stewart said as he concluded the interview, clearly frustrated with Miller's inability to admit fault. "I feel like they point to institutional failure at the highest levels, and no one will take responsibility for it."
Watch the extended interview below.