Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past
—Bruce Springsteen, “Land of Hope and Dreams”
Of course it ended with Bruce Springsteen. No, not because, as a son of New Jersey, having Bruuuuuuce honor you is akin to being knighted. It’s because Jon Stewart’s last episode of The Daily Show was a celebration of how much it meant to him for these last 16 years to be the boss.
It’s why he dedicated almost 30 straight minutes — essentially a full episode’s worth of time — to celebrating the correspondents. (Kudos to Comedy Central for not forcing a commercial break in there.) During his run, The Daily Show rivaled, if not bested, Saturday Night Live as this country’s best comedy incubator, and you can tell that’s something Jon is incredibly proud of. There is nothing he enjoyed more than riffing with the correspondents, often breaking despite the fact that it was easily the third or fourth time he had heard the joke. So, with his final show, he spent half of it going one by one, setting each person up to make a joke so he could laugh with them one last time. It was about them. Or at least it was until Stephen Colbert, as he does, went rogue, summarizing Jon’s bossness thusly:
You’re infuriatingly good at your job. Okay?! … All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you. You are a great artist and a good man.
And it felt especially important for Jon to do right by Wyatt Cenac. Two weeks ago, Jon’s instincts as a boss were called into question after Cenac told the story on “WTF” of a particularly contentious interaction between the two — one that eventually led Cenac to leave the show. He said at the end that he was talking to Jon about coming to his finale episode, trying not to ignore the past but to understand it. Though it was surrounded by frantic silliness, it was arresting how genuine the moment between the two comedians felt. Jon asked, “You good?” and waited to hear Cenac’s response because it mattered to him seemingly more than anything else that happened tonight.
Then, as bosses do, Jon invited us to take a tour of the office. In the form of a pitch-perfect Goodfellas homage, Jon introduced us to everyone that makes the show possible. And I mean everyone: from the producers to the writers to the dogs that famously roam the halls and broke up contentious interactions. It felt reminiscent of the behind-the-scenes video David Letterman showed for his final episode — the difference being that Jon wasn’t in it at all. Forty-five minutes in, and Jon had barely said anything about himself.
Then came what will forever be known as the Jon Stewart Bullshit Speech. In a very, very George Carlin–esque four minutes, Jon summarized the worldview that governed his last decade and a half of satire: “There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit.” It was the philosophy behind his iconic righteous indignation, and the perspective he gave his audience. If the Twitter reaction is any indication, we felt something. It reminded us of what Jon meant to so many people, especially from 2002 to 2008. Jon was the voice of dissent. Jon was the face of the Iraq War’s opposition. Jon was the leader against the bullshit that is politics and media and political media. Jon was the boss.
Springsteen and Co. closed the show with “Land of Hope and Dreams” at Jon’s request. Written in 1999, the year Jon started, you can see why Jon picked it: Sure, it’s a nice, idealistic way to end his show; but more that that, The Daily Show was Jon’s land of hope and dreams, the place where he got to work with hilarious people every day, and with them, try to cut through the bullshit. And he was the boss.
Thank you. Good night.