I miss Jon Stewart’s incarnation of The Daily Show every day. I knew I would, although I expected to like Trevor Noah a little more than I do, and I thought we’d see more of Jessica Williams and Hasan Minhaj than we have. Trevor Noah is doing a fair job, considering the shoes he had to fill, and is definitely improving–the Lindsay Graham episode was excellent. (If you haven’t seen it, try to catch it on the Comedy Central site before it’s taken down.) Nonetheless, the feel of the show is very different now.
I’ve been watching the show since its first incarnation with Craig Kilborn, and Stewart since he hosted Short Attention Span Theater. When Stewart took over from Kilborn, he shaped it into the platform for satire and biting commentary that it became–under Kilborn there was more pure silliness and every episode ended with a mock game show, if I remember correctly. Not that Jon Stewart’s tenure didn’t include a fair amount of pure silliness as well, but the moments I miss the most were the times when they kept the commentary to a minimum because it was so simple to show up the politicians and pundits just by playing things they’ve said at different times back to back. Speaking solely for myself, I’ve found the Republican primary race–not least Trump’s appalling and repellent performance–a tiny bit harder to endure without him. I missed the blend of acerbity and absurdity that Stewart’s crew perfected, and I worried that it would live on only in John Oliver’s show on HBO. (Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show is awesome, but of a completely different format, far more conversation and debate among guests than mockery and satire.)
I worried a little too much, as usual. Samantha Bee took a large part of what made The Daily Show great when she went over to create Full Frontal for TBS, and it is every bit as good. Unlike TDS and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, she doesn’t organize her program necessarily around the events of the past few days but focuses on specific topics that have been relevant for a matter of weeks, months, or, in many cases, years. She is also every bit as capable of making me–and my Conservative father–laugh hard enough to cry.
She deals with many of the same political topics that TDS, LWT, and other political comedy programs do, but she spends a good bit of the (too little) time she has looking at how the issues or events at hand affect not simply the country as a whole or a political class or income group, but at women in particular, and other minorities. Given the recent onslaught of state bills targeting women’s reproductive rights and the attempts to overturn both the ACA and the Roe v. Wade decision at the federal level–not to mention the attempts to block the LBGT community from marrying, adopting children, working without harassment, and using the bathroom–we desperately need this, and more like it. Jon Stewart and his TDS crew perfected this technique of keeping an audience informed while making them laugh, something essential to us as a society since the news networks have begun to sacrifice truth and actual news for the sake of propaganda, pandering, and feel-good segments.
Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal is on Monday nights at 10:00, and I believe the episodes that have already aired are available on the TBS website and on YouTube. In the meantime, here’s a taste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDfpGdk3HgQ