Dear Jon Stewart

Hey pal. Wow, 16 years? Has it been that long? It seems like only yesterday that I discovered The Daily Show. Back in 2001, I was a week or so into my first year of college in Boston and the Twin Towers fell. My first memory of you was that opening monologue, just a few days after 9/11. Almost surely I was stoned and pretty shaken up, and you were raw and real and shaken up too. And you made me feel better. I’ve been watching your show ever since.

Aside from those forced elementary school pen pal letters, this is my first true letter to someone I’ve never met in person. I’ll do my best to not sound totally fucking creepy in the process. It’s just that I really wanted to say, what I felt those 14 years ago watching you for the first time and that’s: Thank you. For that moment, and so, so many crucial moments in between. 

 So thank you, Jon Stewart:

-Thank you for asking questions during those early Bush years and challenging the legitimacy of the Iraq War.

-Thank you for having an interesting and diverse panel of guests, from economists -to celebrities to world leaders to…Bill O’Reilly…

-Thank you for that one time Senior year of college, when I procrastinated my Comparative Political Theory thesis. Due the next morning, I responsibly decided to first smoke a blunt and watch the Daily Show. And what do you know? I got this crazy idea for a topic about half way through the second segment and BOOM, 17 hours and 50 pages later, we got an A. So yeah, thanks for sort of helping me graduate from college.

-Thank you for all those hours you spent watching the 24/7 news gauntlet of bullshit.

-Thank you for having really hilarious and smart writers, and for Stephen Colbert and John Oliver and Samantha Bee and the other amazing correspondents.

-Thank you for pausing when necessary to say in your own words, “Hey America, get your head out of your ass.”

-Thank you for shining light on discrimination gender, race, sexual orientation, by showing us viewers just how ridiculous it is to pretend that we’re not connected.

-Thank you for being funny. Like really, really funny.

And honest.

And real.

And for understanding timing. Thank you for knowing when it was time to go because we would have let you stay forever.

Throughout history, there are these moments of huge transition. For you and for us, 9/11 was a pivot point. Back in 2001, the Internet was just a lower case “i” internet. Media grew so crazy so fast; we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves or with the information that was being blasted at us from all directions. What was truth? What was speculation? What was opinion? And what was just straight up nonsense?

We needed you, Jon. I know that sounds sort of dramatic, but it’s true. We needed you to ground us and navigate us through the crazy. Back when I was 19 and studying philosophy and political science, I was so angry all the time. I was a newspaper reader and the world was moving away from print which in and of itself is not above publishing the salacious. However, with each passing year, it just seemed (still seems) like news was moving so fast that people were reporting before news was actually news.

When I watched your show, I felt like I wasn’t alone. Moments where I felt, “Holy shit, I’m not crazy…THIS, this whole thing, this is crazy.” You said all the things we wanted to say, but you were funnier. And it was beautiful. The more ridiculous that politics became to meet the pace of the craziness of the news media, you just fell right in stride with it. Like you were always meant to be that voice. Because we needed you.

And now, we’ll be on our own. And that’s ok. Eventually, a new voice will rise up to meet the challenges that time presents. But they won’t be you. We shared with you this special piece of history. You have done for us a great service. You’ve taught us to navigate through the sea of bullshit. You’ve reminded us that the fecal stream is only the loudest, most obnoxious part of our story but just a small piece of the American story. The reality is that we can talk about issues that are difficult. We can laugh. We can play. And when it’s necessary, we can press pause. Regular people are really busy. They have families, jobs, lives. They can’t spend all day on Fox News lambasting the liberal media. Or tuning into CNN to watch Wolf Blitzer frantically speculate on such and such plane crash. But we can press pause, and say, “Nope, that’s ridiculous. No thank you.” I hope that we’ll work harder to press pause more often. I mean, Donald Trump?! Jesus Cristo!

I look forward to watching your last week of shows and to celebrating all that you’ve shared with us.

You’ve been brilliant.

We’ll miss you and good luck.

Sincerely,

Melissa McLaughlin