Friday, August 07, 2015

Stewart and Cronkite

We hadn't watched John Stewart for a while, he is on too late, but when I heard on NPR that last night was to be his last show, I knew that it would be special.

And it was.  The first bit where he gathered all of his alumni together ran on a bit, but it was sweet in nature, and I guess that's how it had to be because that's how big his posse was.  Same thing for the second bit, where he went backstage and introduced us to everyone who was back there.  It was a big team, but he did the right thing by introducing every single one of them, seemingly.

Then there was the last bit when he just looked at us and gave us a little sermon on bullshit.  And then Springsteen played.

By the end, I was in tears.  I am, in fact, crying a little bit now.  Partially from exhaustion from having gotten up early two days in a row and then staying up too late last night.

But partially because it is, in the end, just sad, truly the end of an era.  When I had watched the show in recent years, which was an infrequent occurrence,  I felt like it had slipped a little bit into a rut. But who doesn't, after all?  Doing a show, or even a blog, daily over years is an extraordinarily hard thing to do.  Staying funny and relevant is incredibly difficult.

In the end, it was his purity of heart and spirit which distinguished Stewart, and will continue to do so. Watching Colbert speak straight from the heart to Stewart last night was truly special.

And I realized this morning that there has been only one true parallel moment to Stewart's passing the baton like this. Not Carson.  Not Letterman. Not Leno.

Cronkite.  Walter Cronkite defined what it meant to cover the news and public discourse when we were young, and he did it with incredible dignity and forthrightness, and his retirement was an epochal moment, really, the beginning of the end to broadcast news.  I was 15, and I still remember it. Stewart, despite operating within an ironic mode, did the same thing.  He was funny, he told jokes, but right below the surface he was deadly serious, and we knew and know it.  It wasn't the many layers of indirection of the Colbert Report, beneath which we knew what Colbert was up there.  Stewart's earnestness was always just millimeters away.

And so, sigh, we will wait to see what comes next.  Hopefully, it will air earlier in the evening.

No comments: