Can I call you Jon?
In all honesty, I wouldn’t know what else to call you. In our one-sided friendship, I can’t be formal.
I watched your first show sitting in a dingy living room in a tiny house in the American Midwest. I watched your last show from overseas, as I stare back at the United States and wonder what happened.
First, I want to thank you as so many others have. You were and I think will remain to be a foothold of reason in a tempest of insanity. You trumpeted truth through comedy, as so often must be the case. After all, only the fool can mock the king. There will be others, yes. Some of those others you have trained. Others will come out of the woodwork and light up our lives. But you were there for so many pivotal moments of the American story.
I remember few individual shows and fewer yet individual moments. The one I will never forget, and the one that has stayed with me through everything I have been through in my own life, was the 9/11 Moment of Zen. A puppy.
That show was awkward, uncomfortably funny in places. Mostly poignant and reflective, it wasn’t the usual Daily Show. It couldn’t be. But it was a start. I watched it. In fact, I needed it. We all needed it. We needed any step toward normality that we could take. I also needed to know what you were going to say. After the debacle of Indecision 2000, yours was the voice I wanted to hear the most because I knew you would say what I needed to hear, without platitude, without empty, flag-waving patriotism, and without an agenda.
But I didn’t remember what you said, not all these years later. I only remember the puppy. The wiggling, crazy, happy, confused and adorable puppy that you pulled out from under your desk because you knew that’s what we needed in that moment.
That was the first time I remember laughing after 9/11.
If you think about it, most laughter is forgotten. You, who make so many laugh so many times, could not possibly remember it all. You generate laughter professionally and know the nuances of it better than I ever could. Laughter of joy, laughter of embarrassment, laughter of delight, laughter of dismay. As a comedian, you wield so much power to change people, and you always used that power honorably. But at no time did you wield it better than through a puppy.
That puppy. The way I laughed brought tears to my eyes. It hurt to release the tension that had built for a week. The laughter was cathartic. It was healing. It was profound.
“Life…..is a series of dogs,” said George Carlin. And one puppy.
If we cannot laugh, we cannot live. You, personally — You, Jon Stewart — brought me and so many others back to life time and again. Through the challenges laid before me: loss, grief, terror, fear, distrust, anger, resentment, frustration or loneliness, I would think of that puppy. That whatever my situation, underlying it was a joy of life, and a realization that the world is not mine. No matter my struggles, there are happy puppies. No matter my pain, there are happy puppies. For all that is negative, there is a positive.
How ill white hairs become a fool and a jester. How tragic that white hairs come for us all.
Jon. I hope that whatever your future plans, you allow me to welcome you into my life again. After all, you’ve been in my life for sixteen years. I can’t say goodbye forever. I know it is time for you to move on, even from something you clearly love. But I look forward to your role in the next act, with all the profound grace you will bring.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us.