It’s the end of an era, people. Jon Stewart is retiring from “The Daily Show.” Stewart took over anchor duties from Craig Kilborn back in 1999 and has been with us through every twist and turn of modern politics in the last 16 years. Stewart wasn’t the first comedian to lampoon the day’s headlines. HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News,” for example, laid the groundwork from 1983 to 1990. But Stewart was responsible for “The Daily Show”’s growth as an alternative voice in the realm of politics and national media. And just about every comedy news show that followed has owed its existence to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Fox News’ “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” (2007), CNN’s “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” (2008-2009) and IFC’s “Onion News Network” (2011) are just a handful of the shows that have come and gone while “Daily Show” has soldiered on.
So what’s a satirical news junkie to do in the absence of Mr. Stewart? Here are a few suggestions:
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO)—A former “Daily Show” correspondent who did a multi-week hosting stint while Stewart went off and directed the feature Rosewater, John Oliver has made the most out of his fake newsman career. His new(ish) show on HBO is as good as—and sometimes better than— “The Daily Show” these days. He goes into great depth on certain topics, doing “60 Minutes”-style investigative reports on topics as weighty as the plight of gay, lesbian and transgender people in Uganda. And still he finds room for the most pointed of comedic observations. This is the kind of criticism that cuts deep and is, in many ways, the best spiritual successor to the glory days of “The Daily Show.”
“The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” (Comedy Central)—Until South African comedian Trevor Noah shows up to take over Stewart’s “Daily Show” gig beginning Sept. 28, we’ve got Larry Wilmore holding down the fort over on Comedy Central. Wilmore’s spin-off show doesn’t have quite the same spark and rhythm as “The Daily Show.” It’s hard to match Stewart’s political savvy. But Wilmore’s light-touch amusement over the thorny issues of the day (particularly those with a topical racial bent) make him an essential comedy commentator.
“Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO)—Maher’s most recent follow-up to his old series “Politically Incorrect” has become increasingly hard-hitting, choosing experts like journalists, professors and politicians over actors, celebrities and comedians. (Another influence of Stewart?) Maher’s discussion panels can get pretty heated—especially since the host has become a more outspoken “libertarian” and has jumped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon.
“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)— “SNL” is off for the summer, but the show’s Weekend Update segment has been a reliable source for news-based humor since it started back in 1975. Current hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che continue the tradition of jokey one-liners and guest character commentary. “Saturday Night Live”’s era of cultural dominance probably died out in the early ’90s, and the sketchy format doesn’t allow for the in-depth observation many of these other shows have made famous. Still, for a quick chuckle at the week’s headlines, a quick drop-by at “SNL” will probably do the trick come fall.