Jon Stewart is returning to television this weekend.
On Saturday, November 18, Stewart will host the Night of Too Many Stars. The comedy special will air on HBO, and will feature a veritable who’s-who of the comedy world. Like with previous iterations of the show, it is a fundraiser for autism education.
Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015 after being America’s favorite satirist for 16 years. And technically, he’s been back on television a few times since. Interviewers still seek him out, including former top Obama advisor David Axelrod.
For all comedy enthusiasts, Jon Stewart’s legacy and impact is vital. Unlike previous satirists, Stewart capably transcended the boundaries of comedy and was oddly embraced by traditional media sources, the ones he criticized on a daily basis. It’s a signal of his comedic insight that CNN continued to have him as an interview subject throughout his tenure, despite the fact that he basically single-handedly tarnished the reputation of one of CNN’s flagship programs, Crossfire.
Here’s the other thing about Stewart’s legacy: it extends.
In football, there is something known as the “coaching tree.” If the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos gets hired as the head coach for the New York Giants (wink, wink), that coach is considered as under the coaching tree of the current head coach of the Broncos.
If we apply the “coaching tree” to the comedy world, Stewart’s tree is a redwood. For his generation, no one comes close even. Sure, Saturday Night Live has spawned a bevy of comedic legends, but “Live” has been on air since the 70s. In 16 years, Stewart’s “Daily Show” gave birth to many of today’s brightest comedy stars.
Here are the comedians who launched thanks mostly to “The Daily Show.”
Some former correspondents from “The Daily Show” built on their respective careers by staying close to the “Daily Show” formula: the satirical talk show format. Ed Helms, however, did not. While serving as a correspondent, Helms also played a supporting role on NBC’s The Office. At first, “Office” fans found his character of Andy Bernard to be, well, annoying. But as the show progressed, fans found that Andy was… still annoying. But also funny, thank to Helms’ dedication to the ugliest parts of the character.
Andy became one of the most quotable characters on a show filled with quotable characters. Helms left “The Daily Show” in 2009, the same year he starred in The Hangover, one of the most lucrative comedic franchises of the century. Now, he’s the new Clark Griswold in the reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation series, which is a perfect use of his smarmy charm.
In hindsight, I think even Stewart would agree that “The Daily Show” did a poor job of representing women. There were far more male correspondents than female correspondents. One could argue that’s more of an indictment of the overall comedy sphere, rather than “The Daily Show” specifically, and that would be an entirely valid point. For a long time, Samantha Bee was the show’s sole female correspondent. That’s not why she stood out though. She stood out because of her biting sarcasm.
Bee left “The Daily Show” in 2015, just shortly before Stewart’s last episode. Now, she’s the host of her own satirical show, Full Frontal. Like her time as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” Bee finds herself in a position where she’s one of *very* few women hosting a comedy show. And just her last job, she’s showing up the men on a regular basis.
Despite its considerable influence on American entertainment, “The Daily Show” only has former cast/crew member who’s been nominated for Oscar. Sure, Stewart hosted the Oscars a couple of times, but only one person from the show he popularized has ever been nominated. That person is Steve Carell, the “Daily Show” alum with unquestionably the most impressive film resume.
He’s starred in blockbusters (Get Smart, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin), Best Picture nominees (Little Miss Sunshine, The Big Short), and as a voice actor for kids’ movies (Horton Hears a Who, Despicable Me). And despite his deadpan perfection and outstanding comedic instincts, his Oscar nomination came for his terrifyingly chilly turn as a wrestling coach in Foxcatcher. There are few actors who consistently display the kind of range that Carell does.
For comedy nerds between the years 2005 and 2015, there was no better hour during the weekday than the doubleheader of “The Daily Show” and The Colbert Report. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were basically the Smothers Brothers of their generation, just with less guitars. They had different styles; Stewart relied on precise, acerbic material to expose media hypocrisy, whereas Colbert played an over-the-top character in an effort to embody the logical conclusion of media sensationalism. And that character Colbert played was born on “The Daily Show.”
“The Colbert Report” was essentially a spin-off, arguably the greatest spin-off in the modern era. Colbert has dropped the act, but has not even come close to dropping the humor. In 2015, Colbert took over for David Letterman as host of The Late Show. While his tenure as host has been short, he has proven his hilarious former persona was not a fluke.
Every Monday morning, you can reasonably expect to see a few things on your Facebook feed: spoilers from the previous night’s Game of Thrones, complaints about bad calls made by NFL referees, and the newest main segment from Last Week Tonight. John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” premiered in 2014, and became a regular viral sensation in just a few short weeks. Thanks to his in-depth segments about issues that mostly get overlooked, Oliver has become this generation’s most trusted satirist, even though he is originally from across the pond.
Oliver was able to hone his skills when he was the longest-serving guest host on “The Daily Show.” While Stewart was filming his directorial debut Rosewater, Oliver manned the desk, and became a fan favorite. Now fans only get to see Oliver once a week, but his influence and reach is greater than ever before.