LOS ANGELES — After nearly two decades of punny headlines, media skewering and much, much Washington bashing, Jon Stewart is signing off as host of “The Daily Show.” While it is impossible for us to round up all of the show’s noteworthy moments under Stewart’s watch, Variety offers these 17 moments of, well, not always zen:
Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck’s brand of hyperbolic talk on Fox News presented an irresistible target to Stewart (and helped inspire his “Rally to Restore Sanity”), prompting an epic parody of Beck’s brand of performance art/apocalyptic warnings/old-school chalkboard antics.
Jim Cramer — Stewart displayed his serious (and angry) side in a grilling of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, dissecting how the financial-news network and its hyperventilating host engaged in cheerleading for the business interests that led the economy into a crisis.
Judith Miller — Stewart displayed his journalistic/interviewing chops in a grilling of Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter whose coverage helped “sell” the case for going to war in Iraq.
Caitlyn Jenner’s Coming Out — Coverage “The Daily Show’s” ace editing team was at it again earlier this summer, eviscerating the media’s supersaturated (and, yes, sexist) coverage of Caitlyn Jenner.
Even Stevphen — “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” launched the careers of many comedians, but none quite as noteworthy as Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. The improv geniuses’ recurring “Even Stevphen” segment singled out Colbert’s notorious Republican persona and showed the world the man who would become “The Office’s” Michael Scott.
What, the Devil? — Carell, on assignment in Florida, talked to the mayor of a small town that decided to ban Satan. As Carell, Colbert and Stewart said during a Paley Festival panel, some people were just willing to talk to them and give their viewpoint. Current “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams recently did a segment on this marvel.
Charles Doty — He had no strategy, no volunteers and a wife who hated his guts for running, but Charles Doty still insisted on running for president in 2000. “Daily Show” correspondent Vance DeGeneres’ coverage of the Doty campaign covered the hot-button issues like UFO research and kissing on the first date.
Maziar Bahari Interview — While the majority of “The Daily Show’s” feature subjects were more, shall we say, unhinged, there were a few who presented important, newsworthy messages. Correspondent Jason Jones’ interview with Maziar Bahari most likely contributed to the Iranian-Canadian journalist being held prisoner in Iran. The story also resulted in Stewart’s directorial feature debut, “Rosewater.”
Indecision 2000 — Stewart and his team showcased the horrors of live TV when the first presidential campaign they covered during his tenure as host lived up to the special’s name. With a winner not officially to be determined for months, “The Daily Show” staffers (which included on-air talent like Stephen Colbert and Mo Rocca) resorted to what was probably the longest improv stunt ever televised.
“Crossfire” in Cross-Hairs — Although it didn’t happen on “The Daily Show,” we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Stewart’s 2004 visit to CNN’s “Crossfire.” There, he bluntly told the hosts, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, that they were “partisan hacks” and suggested that programs like this long-running debate program were “hurting us.” “You’re doing theater, when you should be doing debate,” he told the hosts. CNN would take the program off the air in 2005. An attempt at reviving it in 2013 failed.
Bill O’Reilly — Although they agree on next to nothing, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Stewart had a cordial relationship. In addition to squaring off against each other in a public debate in 2012, O’Reilly was a frequent guest of “The Daily Show.”
September 11 Coverage — But, of course, the show wasn’t always about the jokes or the interviews. The show’s first episode back after the 9/11 attacks proved how much it resonated not just with New Yorkers, but with people throughout the country who didn’t know how to cope. “They said get back to work, but there were no jobs available for a man in a fetal position under his desk crying,” Stewart said as he choked up.
War on Christmas — In one of his many square-offs with Fox News, Stewart takes on the network’s annual “War on Christmas” coverage. In this particular “S-Getting Weird Edition,” Stewart mocks the news channel’s assertion that Santa Claus and Jesus are not people of color. With help from Jessica Williams, “The Daily Show” host explains why the appearance of these two historical figures changed over time.
Rick Perry — The staff of “The Daily Show” got a little too excited about Rick Perry’s brain freeze during the 2012 presidential debates.
Donald Trump — Jon Stewart has long delighted in Donald Trump’s foibles — that the millionaire-turned-presidential candidate is now at the top of national polls despite his foot-in-mouth disease seems a perfect sendoff for Stewart. But none of Trump’s missteps infuriated the “Daily Show” host more than his 2011 dinner with Sarah Palin, when “Captain Combover” not only stacked his pizza slices (“All those years of stacking your hair, you think you can layer anything you want to layer…”), but dared to eat them with a knife and fork. “Based on how you eat pizza, Donald, I want to see your birth certificate,” raged Stewart in a seven-minute segment. “I don’t think you were really born in New York.” Stewart’s rampage against utensil users continued throughout his “Daily Show” reign — including Mayor Bill de Blasio. “You’re supposed to be a man of the people,” he thundered. “Eat like one.”
Arafat is Alive — When rumors surfaced that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had died in the hospital, the Paris head of the hospital was forced to refute those reports. Dressed in all his finery he came out to assure, “Monsieur Arafat is not dead.” As Jon Stewart paraphrased the official, “For this I had to dress up?”
Charleston Church Shooting — After years of reporting on the travesties of mass killings and civil rights violations, the June shootings at South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church made it pretty clear that Stewart is ready to retire. Barely controlling his frustration and disgust over the shooting that took the lives of nine people, he said, “I have one job and it’s a pretty simple job. I come in the morning and I look at the news and I make jokes about it — but I didn’t do my job today. I got nothing for you.”