With the announcement that Jon Stewart is stepping down from The Daily Show, tons of outlets, including NMR, are speculating about who should fill his shoes. It’s an interesting question and one that the media and Comedy Central should give some serious thought to. But before we look toward the future, we should take a minute to look back on Stewart’s 15 years hosting what became, to many, America’s most trusted news show. Though he asserted again and again that he was just a comedian, many younger Americans, well trained in seeing through layers of snark, came to view Stewart as one of the most honest voices in news.
Stewart wasn’t the first person to riff on the news — he wasn’t even the first host of The Daily Show — but his tenure was the longest and most iconic. His approach, which was both cuttingly funny and unfailingly honest, will have an impact on the way television does comedy, and news, for years to come. However, Jon Stewart’s influence doesn’t stop there. The Daily Show was part of many millennials’ regular media diet, and as a result had a tremendous influence on the way news content is presented on YouTube.
It’s impossible to talk about news on YouTube without talking about SourceFed. The SourceFed network made their name with punchy news updates that drop all the relevant details of a trending story into the middle of a tasty comedy sandwich. SourceFed tends to open and close with a laugh, but in between those two highs is all the info you’ll need to start staking out an informed position on a given issue. Since their inception, SourceFed has expanded their mission to include pop culture and politics under their umbrella of coverage.
The Phillip DeFranco Show
If SourceFed is the distilled version Jon Stewart’s laugh-and-tell strategy, then The Phillip DeFranco Show, hosted by SourceFed founder Phil DeFranco, is the long-form version. The channel launched back in 2006 and, at its height, took the form of a web-based news show covering trending topics and viral stories. DeFranco didn’t present the show as hard news, but rather followed Stewart’s model, informing his audience while simultaneously mocking hypocrisy or stupidity. Like television infotainment, the show isn’t neutral but it does aim to inform as well as ridicule.
Even our very own #News owes a debt to Jon Stewart’s particular brand of newsy snark. Our correspondents always aim to give you the full story but frequently we can’t help but pull back to curtain and let you know just how ridiculous we think those stories and the people involved really are.
The Young Turks
When it comes to the news, The Young Turks tend to play it straight, but there’s no denying that their energetic presentation, combative stance on issues, and occasional moments of levity share some DNA with Stewart’s Daily Show. TYT founder Cenk Uygur filmed a special video to mark the announcement of Stewart’s departure, citing his many contributions to the world of infotainment.
The Gregory Brothers
Perhaps more than anyone else, The Gregory Brothers and their Autotune the News series embody the way that YouTube takes straight news and makes entertainment — a skill in which Jon Stewart is well practiced. Their autotuned tracks featuring politicians, news anchors, and thought leaders repackage straight informational content and turn it into catchy tracks and riffs. You may not even notice that you’re being enlightened because you’re so distracted by the sick beat (sorry Taylor).
Rooster Teeth/The Know
When hugely successful YouTube animation and comedy studio Rooster Teeth decided to dip its toe into the world of pop culture news with a series of daily update shows called “The Know,” no one was surprised to see that their tone was snarky, irreverant, and fun. While it’s probably not fair to say that Jon Stewart invented snark or fun (probably), it is fair to say that he was the first to teach a generation of news consumers that you could be simultaneously informed and entertained.
A keen eye can see a bit of Jon Stewart in just about any new media spin on the nightly news. Anywhere that someone is taking a story less serious in order to get the message across, there’s a little bit of his influence. More than that, The Daily Show played a part in shaping the way the millennial generation thinks about news. The low tolerance for hypocrisy, awareness of corporate influence, and desire to be both informed and amused that are present in most young people can be traced directly back to Jon Stewart’s tenure on The Daily Show. New media and old media both owe him a debt.
Tell us how Jon Stewart has shaped your approach to news and politics in the comments below.