Jon Stewart is retiring. No one will notice after the first week, but the usual suspects will make a big deal of it in the run-up. For a long time now, Stewart has been the source of confirmation for the American Left. I’m fond of pointing out that the Left took over the American Protestant movement in the 19th century and has followed their rhythms ever since. The Great Awakenings are now Progressive Awakenings. It’s not an accident that Jon Stewart got famous in the early 1990’s, when this Progressive Awakening began.
Similarly, it is not an accident that he is leaving the stage as this Great Awakening draws to a close. It’s not hard to see that things are fizzling out with the Left. Their party is a mess, run by broken down old people left over from the 1960’s. Their savior is on his last legs, ready to stagger out of office without bringing about the promised Utopia. At last check the seas are right where he found them six years ago. Stewart is a smart guy and he knows when to leave the stage.
Another reason to leave is he has an army of imitators now. The reason for that is his shtick is easy. Dave Letterman worked out the exaggerated irony-face bit in the 80’s. Comics have always used cues to let the audience know it is OK to laugh. Letterman, a journeyman comic, got very good at this as a guest host for Johnny Carson. He latter combined it with liberal politics to titillate the typical NYC audience.
Stewart’s innovation was to take Letterman’s act and base it on a fake news show. That way he was free to pound away at liberal themes in a way that made the audience feel special and privileged. They got the jokes so they must be smart. His act is flatire, satire intended to flatter the audience. Greg Gutfeld call it the mirror that laughed.
Now there are a bunch of guys doing it and some doing it even better. John Oliver, who is just Jon Stewart with an accent, hits the younger crowd because he can freely curse in his act. Steve Colbert has found he can keep his liberal base, but attract the less crazy too. In a way, exaggerated irony-face is a commodity. The bit has been perfected and it is now a low cost comedy option. The value in Jon Stewart is now heading down and he is wise to leave before he becomes a hack.
The strange thing about Jon Stewart is he was never all that funny. More important, he was never all that hip and groovy. That was just the bullshit middle-aged cosmopolitans and wannabe beautiful people sold themselves. The Weekly Standard has a piece on the real numbers behind Stewart’s show.
As a “millennial” (roughly speaking, someone between the ages of 18 and 29), I’ve grown used to being tarred with fallacious accusations. We millennials are spoiled and mollycoddled! (Nope.) We’re tech-obsessives who would never even think of picking up something as fuddy duddy as a book! (Wrong again.) We’re irredeemable narcissists! (‘Fraid not.)
Today’s meme is that we millennials are utterly devastated by Jon Stewart’s announcement that he will be leaving The Daily Show next year. “What Walter Cronkite was to an earlier generation — an utterly trusted voice — Stewart has been to millennials,” writes Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe. Stewart has “hordes of millennial fans,” reports CNN. “For people under 30,” says the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, “Jon Stewart leaving the Daily Show is the equivalent of the Beatles breaking up.” (And Tumulty should know – she was born in 1955.)
Now one thing we millennials supposedly love is “data journalism.” So let’s back up and see whether there exists any data to back up Tumulty et al.’s claims that we millennials have just suffered a loss on par with the demise of the Lennon-McCartney partnership.
As of 2013, The Daily Show was bringing in approximately 2 million nightly viewers. And according to an exhaustive Pew Survey from 2012, 39 percent of The Daily Show’s regular viewers are between the ages of 18 and 29. That means that approximately 780,000 millennials are regular Daily Show watchers. In the United States, there are 53 million people between the ages of 18 and 29. That means that a whopping 1.5 percent of millennials watch the Daily Show regularly! Let’s be generous and assume that, say, 5 million people watch The Daily Show even occasionally. That would still mean a paltry 1.95 million out of 53 million millennials are Stewart fans.
That’s not all. According to Bill Carter, then of the New York Times, the average Daily Show viewer is 41 years old. Considering other cable shows alone, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer, American Horror Story, and Louie all have significantly younger audiences than does Stewart. And here’s my favorite nugget: 9 percent of the regular viewers of the nightly evening news – long derided as the news source of the geriatric set – are between the ages of 18 and 29. About 22 million people watch the nightly news. Thus, nearly 2 million millennials are regular viewers of the nightly evening news. That’s right: more than twice as many millennials watch Brian Williams, Scott Pelley, et al, than watch The Daily Show.
In other words, the great millennial following of The Daily Show is a total myth.
Reality, of course, is not of much interest to the Cult of Modern Liberalism. This piece in the Moonbat Review is what we’ll be hearing until Stewart finally quits. Again, the tone and choice of language is what you would expect from a religious cult. Calling a TV comic a “prophet” is not the sort of thing rational people tend to do. The Christian overtones are unmistakable, for those who know their history and Bible. Steve Almond sounds like one of the disciples sorting through his options after the Ascension.
This is consistent with end cycle Progressive Awakenings. Unlike UFO cults or apocalyptic cults, American Progressives handle disconfirmation by going dormant for a period. The New Left went dormant in the mid-70’s and remained so until the early-90’s. Look back at those dormant years and the movies, music and television were big on reminiscence of the 60’s. There was a certain sadness to it all in the early years until it became full-blown nostalgia in the late 80’s.
Steve Almond is speaking to that growing ennui on the Left that the party is over, for now.