So Jon Stewart formally announced his impending retirement/Jeter Farewell Tour last night. (Twitter, as it does, reacted as if he had died, so my condolences.) And naturally, he took a moment to say that he might use his time off to spend more time with his family. Now, you and I have heard this from four billion other men throughout history: politicians, athletes, coaches, etc. All of them are liars, because men get restless. It's the cycle for any middle-aged dude: You go to work, you miss your family, you go home, and then you miss work, and you go back to work again. And so it goes forever.
Stewart took over for Craig Kilborn in 1999, back when The Daily Show was a much more generalized fake-news program that covered pop culture and sports and all that shit. But when Stewart took the job, he remodeled the show into an exclusively political entity. The Daily Show basically became Fire Joe Morgan, but for televised political coverage. And in that time, you could see Stewart gradually shift from political-dick-joke provider—an outsider—to America's preferred liberal TV op-ed columnist, an insider with access to pretty much anyone in power, regardless of party affiliation. He did all this while still labeling himself as a comedian—something that served as a handy defense mechanism for him, as noted by many people—but you could tell that he took politics and the effects of warped media coverage very seriously. He even said it himself when he wrapped up last night: "You get into this business with the idea that maybe you have a point of view and something to express."
Life gets a lot more serious as you go along. When I was in high school, I would read the purple and red sections of USA Today, and the rest was toilet paper to me. I could have given half a shit. But then you get out of school, and you get married, and you have kids, and you start dealing with the vagaries of the American education system, and you see friends and family members pass away, and all of the serious shit that you spent a lifetime trying to avoid drags you in. I have to care about health-care reform now, because I have to pay for that shit. I have to care about financial reform, because I have six dollars in some random 401(k) out there. It's not as easy to just laugh it off when politicians fuck people over and various media factions act as PR for that fucking-over process.
That's probably why Stewart took the entire summer of 2014 off to go direct his first feature film, which was very much not a comedy. He's still got an artistic point of view, but the jokes have gradually fallen by the wayside, to the point where Stewart's correspondents now do most of the heavy joke-lifting for him. When serious shit has gone down, he gives joke-less addresses to his audience. He became the last word on real issues for a shitload of people, and he has been well aware of that for some time now. He has carried himself like a politician. Like Al Franken, he has become more invested in making a tangible difference than in making you laugh, which is why he should do what Franken did and put his money where his mouth is and run for office.
I don't know if Stewart would make a very good politician. It's an infinitely worse job than the one he has right now, and he probably doesn't have the patience or the temperament to hold his tongue when voters and/or colleagues say something idiotic. I'm not saying that I personally want him to run for office. I'm just saying it's the next logical step for a driven, wealthy fellow who has risen to prominence in his chosen field and now would like to make a tangible difference in the world. Like George Clooney, Stewart is probably the kind of dude that hears YOU SHOULD RUN FOR PRESIDENT! from a lot of fans and humbly waves off the idea while secretly relishing it. He can go ahead and make more movies or return to his standup roots or become a legitimate news anchor. But for the 17 years, he has stood just outside the political arena, DYING to jump in and start throwing punches at everyone. He's been in a position where he doesn't need to risk all that much. But the time has come for him to risk something—to step inside the arena and see what happens.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter@drewmagary and email him at email@example.com. You can also order Drew's book,Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
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