Institutional 2015

Institutional Award: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

From That Was The Week That Was to Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update and HBO’s Not Necessarily the News, television has long found humor and absurdity in news and current events. But Comedy Central’s The Daily Show – once comedian Jon Stewart became its host/anchor in 1999 – was a different animal, an evolutionary leap. In an era of politicized, echo-chamber news channels and traditional-journalism timidity, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart didn’t simply mine the day’s news for jokes. It spoke truth to power and wither-ing sarcasm to hypocrisy, taking on the news media as well as the news makers, and thus became a trusted source of news for citizens united in their disappointment and disgust with politics and cable news. Aided and abetted by writers such as former Onion editor Ben Karlin and a gifted cadre of “correspondents” who over time included Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert, Larry Wilmore, Kristen Schaal, John Oliver, Lewis Black and Samantha Bee, Stewart deconstructed real news reports, covered elections and conducted interviews that made powerful politicians fume and squirm. They declared jihad against the stupefying of America and demonstrated that serious topics – books, authors, scientists, thinkers – needn’t be the sole province of PBS and C-SPAN. While The Daily Show is a program that existed before and after Jon Stewart’s tenure, there is little doubt that Stewart and his team, over the course of 17 years, made a lasting impact on political satire, television comedy and even politics itself. For its bracing media criticism, gleeful outing of mendacity and unflagging mockery of the dumb and asinine in American life, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart receives an Institutional Peabody Award.