Dean Obeidallah says Stewart's biting satire is especially needed now
In an appearance on the Axe Files podcast, Stewart had strong words for Trump and Clinton
Listening to Jon Stewart mock Donald Trump, and even take a shot at Hillary Clinton on Tuesday while a guest on David Axelrod’s podcast, made me realize how much we desperately need him to end his retirement and get back on TV.
True, Stewart hasn’t been just sitting around since stepping down from the “Daily Show” last August and growing the typical retired talk show host beard. (Although he is sporting one, it’s far smaller than David Letterman’s.) Stewart has been busy with projects such as creating a 12-acre farm for abused animals and fighting for Congress to fund benefits for the 9/11 first responders.
But listening to Stewart for just a few minutes made me keenly aware of how desperately we need his voice in this election cycle. First Stewart joked on the podcast that Trump was an “unrepentant, narcissistic … man-baby,” needling him for still being sensitive about a Vanity Fair article from 25 years ago that mocked Trump’s small hands.
And then he turned to Clinton, describing her as “a very bright woman without the courage of her convictions.” But he added a sentiment shared by many that he would still support Clinton if she were the Democratic nominee “because at this point I would vote for Mr. T over Donald Trump.”
A slightly tweaked version of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song “Mrs. Robinson” popped into my head while listening to Stewart: “Where have you gone Jon Stewart? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
Sure, there are other funny late-night hosts on TV, such as Samantha Bee, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and Stewart’s “Daily Show” successor, Trevor Noah. But Stewart gave us more than comedy. He was a voice for a generation of people who are fans of political comedy.
Stewart offered something else – something unique to him. He got under Trump’s famously thin skin. In fact, Trump attacked Stewart numerous times over the years on Twitter because he was so aggravated by Stewart ridiculing him.
There was the time in 2013 that Trump lashed out on Twitter claiming he was “much smarter” than Stewart and then writing that the late-night host was not “funny or smart, just loud and obnoxious, a pushy dope!” And in May 2015, Trump unleashed a series of tweets calling Stewart “a wiseguy with no talent” and even mocking Stewart’s fans: “Some losers and haters will miss him and his dumb clown humor. Too bad!”
Imagine how Trump would have freaked out if Stewart were still on the air four nights a week reminding everyone that Trump is truly nothing more than a punchline.
But apart from unnerving Trump, Stewart would’ve been entertaining us at Trump’s expense. We saw a taste of that after Trump announced his candidacy two months before Stewart was about to sign off as “Daily Show” host. Stewart called Trump’s presidential announcement the “most beautifully ridiculous jibber-jabber ever to pour from the mouth of a bats**t billionaire.”
Stewart then poignantly summed up his view of Trump by joking that it’s “hard to get mad at Donald Trump for saying stupid things, in the same way you don’t get made at a monkey when it throws poop at you in the zoo. It’s a monkey. It’s what they do.”
He also went after Trump’s statement that Mexico is sending people to America who are “bringing drugs” and “rapists” on several occasions. One show he even encouraged the audience to follow the bouncing ball and sing along to Trump’s words demonizing Latinos to drive the point home.
And Stewart, invoking his signature righteous indignation, comically fileted Trump for his mocking of John McCain after Trump said he liked “people who weren’t captured.” Stewart brutally mocked this outlandish remark by doing an impression of Trump and saying: ” F**k cancer survivors – I like people who don’t get cancer. Those are the people we should be making wishes and running marathons for: winners.”
We can only imagine how Stewart would’ve comically crushed Trump after his proposal to ban over a billion Muslims from America or Trump defending his white fans beating up a Black Lives Matters protester. Or comically roasting Trump over his litany of sexist remarks, such as mocking Carly Fiorina’s face.
In what will likely be a truly ugly and stress inducing general election contest, Stewart would have offered us a much needed comedic cathartic release. Now there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Last fall Stewart signed a deal with HBO to create short-form digital videos for its online streaming platforms. The downside is that there’s no set date for when these videos will roll out.
In any event, let’s hope we see more of Stewart between now and November, even if it’s just random appearances on TV shows, podcasts, HBO digital platforms and the like. It’s not only good for the political process – it’s good for our sanity.
Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program “The Dean Obeidallah Show,” a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.