Jon Stewart’s surprise announcement on Tuesday night that he will be stepping down as host of “The Daily Show” marked the beginning of the end for his reign as America’s political court jester.
The Comedy Central star presided over the show for 16 years, hitting his stride during the Bush administration and later producing a new caste of late night political satirists in “Daily Show” correspondents, from Stephen Colbert to Larry Wilmore to John Oliver.
Below are some of the highlights of Stewart’s tenure as host, in no particular order:
1. Chaos On Bullshit Mountain
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s now-infamous remarks from 2012 about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes were bound to make it on “The Daily Show.”
“In the 48 hours since the Romney video first gained wide exposure, turd containment crews have been working overtime on Bullshit Mountain,” Stewart said as Fox News scrambled to do damage control for the Republican candidate.
2. Stewart Grills “Mad Money” Host Jim Cramer
Stewart wasn’t always a tough interviewer, but he pulled no punches against CNBC and “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, for their role in whitewashing Wall Street’s responsibility for the 2008-09 financial crash.
“I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a fucking game,” Stewart told Cramer. “And when I watch that, I get, I can’t tell you how angry that makes me. Because what it says to me is: you all know.”
“You all know what’s going on,” he continued. “You know, you can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear, and AIG, and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet.”
3. Slamming Fox News, On Fox News
With no shortage of hostility, Fox host Chris Wallace invited Jon Stewart into “the belly of the beast,” where the comedian called the channel’s viewers the “most consistently misinformed.”
“Are you suggesting that you and I are the same?” Stewart snapped at one moment. “You can’t understand, because of the world you live in, that there is not a designed, ideological agenda on my part to effect partisan change.”
“Because that’s the soup you swim in,” he added.
4. Speechless After The Eric Garner Decision
On occasion, Stewart has been able to drop his schtick for a few minutes, channeling the confusion or grief of most TV viewers in the face of grim headlines. He did it after the September 11 attacks, and after news that the police officer who choked out Eric Garner would be the latest white cop to avoid indictment after a black man’s death.
“I don’t know, I honestly don’t know what to say,” Stewart said.
“We are definitely not living in a post-racial society,” he went on, “and I can imagine there are a lot of people out there wondering how much of a society we’re living in at all.”
5. Delivering ‘Crossfire’s’ Death Knell
Before it was temporarily reanimated in 2013, CNN’s long-running, loudmouth debate show “Crossfire” received a fatal blow from a guest appearance by Stewart in 2004.
“What you do is partisan hackery” Stewart said to hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. “You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.”
“I do think you’re more fun on your show,” Carlson said with a sigh.
“You’re as big a dick on your show as you are on any show,” Stewart shot back.
The show was cancelled a few months later.