A fond reflection of Jon Stewart’s time on the Daily Show

Loved and loathed in equal measure, Jon Stewart says goodbye to The Daily Show this week after 16 years of biting satire. We reflect on his reign and wonders what’s next for the influential comedian.

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Courtesy Comedy Central
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For those public figures who have been hauled over the scorching satirical coals of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart can't vacate the Comedy Central premises soon enough.

But for the rest of us, after his final show – which airs on Friday, August 7, on OSN First Comedy HD, the night after its United States broadcast – our weeknights just won’t be the same. What will we do without our fearless lefty crusader, whose wit and penetrating, insightful intelligence helped us to grasp the issues of the day, and who mocked the mighty and the pompous as few others have.

Stewart is no lightweight – “I’m not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance” – and he’s burnt miles of bridges, creating scores of enemies along the way after taking over the show from Craig Kilborn in 1999.

"Despite the 19 and counting Emmy Awards," says media critic Alex Strachan of tvworthwatching.com, "and despite The Daily Show's longevity – more than 2,600 episodes, spread over 16 years – Stewart struck some of his critics as being glib, condescending and insufferably smug on occasion.

"For a show billed as a 'fake news' programme, The Daily Show took itself really seriously on occasion."

Of his sniping match with Crossfire co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala – which spurred CNN to cancel their programme, Stewart says: "They said I wasn't being funny. And I said to them: 'I know that, but tomorrow I will go back to being funny, and your show will still blow.'"

Love him or loathe him, the 52-year-old's evolution from stand-up comedian to a genuine and influential voice in critiquing media and politics has been a thrilling ride – as he and a string of Daily Show correspondents, including the cool Canuck duo Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, merrily flayed trends, pop culture, current events, politics, sports, entertainment and the media.

In fact, The Daily Show has proven a breeding ground for comic talent, turning many of its correspondents into stars, including Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, Ed Helms, ­Olivia Munn, Rachel Harris, Rob Corddry and, most recently, the white-hot Brit wit John Oliver, whose own news satire, Last Week Tonight, on HBO has ­become a social-media ­sensation.

So how is it all going to end for Stewart?

To his credit, he has let his ­producers dangle a big juicy carrot in front of the “notables whom Stewart’s given grief over the past 17 years” – the chance to appear on the grand finale to tell Stewart exactly what they think of him, in what will, no doubt, be a torrent of bleeped-out expletives.

A frequent target of Stewart, the US Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, surely got his invite – in fact, he says the producers begged him to appear, though they deny this. Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, no stranger to Stewart's jabs, and a regular sparring partner on the show, is a good sport who is also likely to appear.

In the run-up to that last hurrah, it has been announced that the guests for this week’s other three shows will be actor-­comedian pals of Stewart: Amy Schumer (Tuesday); Denis Leary (Wednesday); and Louis C K (Thursday).

“We’re going to have a ball,” says Stewart. “I can’t wait to show my appreciation for all the support and enthusiasm that you guys have given the show all these years.”

But when the cheering and backslapping is done, what’s next for Stewart?

His post-Daily Show plans might include more film­making – his directorial debut, last year's Rosewater, about Iranian-­Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari's imprisonment in Iran in 2009, was well-received by critics – but his comic roots run deeper: "I'd love to return to stand-up," he says.

In addition, after 16 years of brutal days, working 9am to 9pm, Stewart says he is also ­feeling the pull of family life, and a desire to spend more time with his wife, Tracey Lynn McShane, and their children, Nathan, 11, and Maggie, 9.

“I need more flexibility,” he says. “I’ve got maybe four or five more years with [my children] before they really don’t want ­anything to do with me.”

Trevor Noah, a young South African comedian, who recently became a ­contributor to the show, will take over The Daily Show on ­September 28.

Top moments of the show

• 9/11 monologue: After the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001, Stewart's teary-eyed opening monologue touched the soul of the nation: "I wanted to tell you why I grieve – but why I don't despair."

• Jim Cramer jolted: When CNBC's frantic Mad Money host and stock-picker Jim Cramer accused The Daily Show of hurting his feelings during the 2008 financial crisis, Stewart told him: "The problem isn't being wrong, it's being all over the place."

• Crossfire cratered: "What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably," Stewart told CNN Crossfire hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. CNN cancelled the show.

• Being Glenn Beck: When Fox News hired Glenn Beck to leap about the screen with a chalkboard like a drama queen, Stewart channelled Beck with scribbles and gibberish, but occasionally conceded the "straw man, ­slippery-slope dumb guy might have a point".

• Indecision 2000: Early in his tenure, Stewart had a field day with the American divide over presidential candidates George W Bush and Al Gore, which culminated in the famously drawn-out "hanging chads" recount in Florida during the 2000 election.

• CNN skewered: Stewart's long-­running, epic rants against his perceived ­shortcomings of CNN – "the most-busted name in news" – began 16 years ago. In fact, Stewart's constant mockery and derision of CNN is one of his most cherished late-night rituals.

• Bush vs Bush: With devious and masterful editing of news clips, Stewart hilariously arranged stinging foot-in-mouth debates between Texas governor George W Bush and his later self, US president George W Bush.

• Guantanamo Baywatch: Nothing trumps a snide puppet show, especially when Stewart brings out Gitmo – essentially an Elmo puppet with a beard – to talk about his life as an illegally detained terrorist who dines on lobster, baby back ribs and a mojito.

BP oil spill When the colossal BP oil spill poured into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days in 2010, Stewart gushed as he ­counted up the days and dissected President Obama's address to the nation in a segment he called The Strife ­Aquatic.

The grand finale of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart airs at 10pm on Friday on OSN First ­Comedy HD