“They’re lucky I don’t make fun of them a second time! Because if I do, people will make fun of me for having no material.”

– Me

There’s a popular sentiment I’ve seen suggesting that, if Jon Stewart had only remained the host of The Daily Show, then Donald Trump would never have won the presidency. The reason being, I presume, Jon Stewart would have made fun of him so hard his popularity would never have reached the levels it did. But what is this alternate history based on? I enjoyed Jon Stewart’s run on The Daily Show, but when has he ever displayed the ability to impact national events at this magnitude? George W. Bush won two terms during this period and Obama’s 2008 popularity seemed to extend far beyond that of The Daily Show’s fanbase. Am I really underestimating the power Jon Stewart wielded at this time? The most significant event I’ve heard people cite of his satirical power was how he destroyed Tucker Carlson’s career with his appearance on Crossfire – except Tucker Carlson would go on to become, and continues to be to this day, one of the most powerful conservative voices in the media.

Donald Trump is a notoriously difficult target to satirize, as many comedians have expressed over the years, because no matter how absurd you make your jokes about him, the human Comedy of Errors that is Donald Trump has already done or said ten things far more absurd than what you came up with. And somehow Jon Stewart, who I would argue wasn’t even the funniest or cleverest comedian on his own show, would have been the one human being capable of performing the impossible?

Again, I like Jon Stewart – he’s definitely been a formative influence on my own comedic sensibilities – but there’s this deification of him as some prophet of comedy that just makes me feel uneasy when people inflate his reputation like that. And don’t even get me started on George fuckin’ Carlin.

– James