Back when David Letterman was on NBC and his show was called Late Night, I remember that during one of his anniversary broadcasts the host rode out onto the stage -- it might have been Radio City Music Hall, taken over for this particular celebration -- atop a white horse. It was around 1990, and I felt that Letterman was, as the image indicated, somewhat of a hero for those of my generation: the purveyor of humor that was smart, funny, irreverent and that spoke to us.
Letterman is at CBS now, and I don't watch his show that often. When I do see it, there is less anticipation that each night is going to be a spectacle -- some new twist on the talk show format that will have everyone talking the next day. He can still be funny, but he is now 61 and his show can no longer be relied on to prod and poke fun at the establishment. It has been for a while now part of it.
A few years ago I began watching The Daily Show, which Jon Stewart took over hosting in 1999, and I've come to see that program as a nightly "must-see." For people like me -- progressives who attempt to be politically aware -- it is "the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news," as described in a recent story in The New York Times.
To those who don't watch The Daily Show, it may seem impossible for a self-proclaimed "fake news show" to be a source of what is happening in the world, but it's true. The program often takes apart political news and lays the pieces bare for all to see, while network news shows offer fluff and dance around the truth. There is, often, a little crass humor here and there, but there is some brutal honesty regarding our politicians and our political system. There's also a serious discussion with each evening's guest -- and Stewart always shows himself to be on top of every issue and able to spar with the most highly-regarded minds.
More and more the owners of those minds are showing up, liberal and conservative. They know that Stewart's audience is smart and reads books, so the show is a key stop for writers of political non-fiction. Also, politicians consider it a show worth visiting. John McCain has been on several times, as have the presidents of several countries and more than two dozen current or former US Senators.
Even when I need to wake up early the next day, I try to catch The Daily Show (11 p.m. on Comedy Central, channel 76 on Comcast Cable), and if Jon Stewart rides out one night on a white horse I will applaud.