Jon Stewart won his well-deserved tenth consecutive Emmy on Sunday night, giving The Daily Show one whole decade on top. So what is responsible for Stewart’s success? He is an intelligent political comedian making light of politicians from all sides of the spectrum by relevantly exploiting their flaws through an entertaining, yet intellectual, medium.
Before the “fact checkers” and Anderson Cooper “Keeping them Honest” segments of today, Jon Stewart was the TV personality that made sure that politicians could not get away with saying anything and everything. His Indecision 2000 clips truly launched political coverage to a different level. By satirizing the political process of the Supreme Court’s decision, he put in plain terms the difficult language and constitutional jargon that encompassed the controversial decision of the court in Bush v. Gore. Irrespective of whether one agreed or disagreed with his analysis, it was concise, provocative, and expressive of the opinions of those that became politically disillusioned as a result the ruling.
Stewart has a unique ability to be funny while simultaneously conducting interviews and making commentary on serious topics. Yes, late night talk show hosts like Jay Leno, and David Letterman have had the president on their show, but there is a very different and apparent connection that Jon Stewart has with his audience and with his guests. For instance, in his October 2010 interview with President Obama, Stewart not only humanized the president by generating laughs and genuine commentary, but challenged him by asking “how did we go from ‘hope and change’, to please baby one more time?” This was a pointedly effective and colloquial way of addressing the concerns many Americans had during the midterm elections in 2010, and still have during this election cycle.
Stewart’s critique of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for bashing Mitt Romney over his tax returns was a classic juxtaposition of the baseless accusations of Reid and Stewart’s perceived “irony” of Fox News criticizing Reid for making news without sources. Stewart seamlessly crafted this segment to appeal to both the intellectual and common sense rationalities of his viewers. This is what makes him an incredibly respectable commentator. His show caters to both the policy wonks and the casual news watchers. He is knowledgeable on all the policies he comments on and provides memorable insight.
Although he targets conservatives more so than liberals, what adds to Stewart’s appeal is his genuine respect for differing opinions. His upcoming debate with Bill O’Reilly, the “Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,” shows that despite his consistent ridiculing of O’Reilly’s views, he is willing to have a civil debate with one of his largest sources for material. He embraces deliberation and ridicule, but does not make his commentary personal. Stewart’s commentary can be outrageous, but he is crafty and generally non-offensive.
Regardless of political affiliation, Americans and the television community have an overwhelming amount of respect for Stewart. The Daily Show is a political art form that others dream to emulate. In a generation of short clips and viral videos, Stewart provides the informative and the hilarious in a succinct burst of energy. Congratulations on your Emmy Jon Stewart; you revolutionized political commentary as we know it, and all the so-called fact-checkers are heavily indebted and will never match you.