Jon Stewart's off-beat take on news gets global 'like'
Feb. 11, 2015
PARIS (AP) — The finance minister of France once gave Jon Stewart a lesson in high finance — and then offered him a beret.
Christine Lagarde, now chief of the International Monetary Fund, has been but one of many high-profile foreign guests on Stewart's "The Daily Show" — from Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage Nobel Peace winner waging a battle against terrorists, to off-beat London Mayor Boris Johnson, who offered to open the gates of his city to "refugees" from New York escaping an attempt to ban super-sized sodas.
Stewart digs with delight into global events large and small, making international news — and news-making international guests — an intrinsic part of his show. The comic relief and analysis in which he frames world events has proven a draw beyond the U.S. shores.
The French newspaper Le Monde carried a story on Stewart's plans, announced Tuesday, to bow out after 16 years, as did the Guardian, Britain's Sky News and other media outlets, including ones in Israel. Sky News showed a clip of Stewart interviewing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
British comic Steve Nallon told Sky that Stewart's comedic strength came from both his sense of authority and the way he was able to get to the kernel of truth about the issues he satirized.
In Portugal, all the main newspaper websites carried news of Stewart's plans to move on, with some including "best of" compilations.
"For me, John Stewart is the most combative, biting and independent voice in the U.S. political and media world ... I read this news (of his departure) with sorrow," a person identified only as "Augusta" posted on the site of Lisbon's Diario de Noticias newspaper.
Stewart has not said when he will leave the show or what he plans to do next.
He made a deep-dive into foreign turf in 2013 to direct "Rosewater," a film about an Iranian-born journalist imprisoned for 118 days in Tehran and accused of being a spy.
Also in 2013, Stewart traveled to Cairo for a guest appearance — posing as a scruffy, captured foreign spy — on the TV show of Egypt's answer to Stewart, Bassem Youssef, who appeared on the New York-based show.
Youssef's show "ElBernameg" (Arabic for "The Program") was canceled last June with the comedian saying ominously that Egypt's climate was not "suitable" to satirizing the powerful.
The political climate was never Jon Stewart's problem. He has fed on it, big-footing his way through the most delicate diplomatic territories.
Stewart's routines have frequently played on news and entertainment shows in Israel. Most recently, he used his humor to go after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech before the U.S. Congress, arranged without the knowledge of the White House.
"Whenever we talk about Israel ... we get phone calls," Stewart said, producing a clunky switchboard with wires and red phone, ringing off the hook.
In a well-known skit, Stewart is accused by Palestinians of being pro-Israel and by Israelis of being pro-Palestinian.
But Stewart has given powerful guests a chance to talk in a way they cannot on the job.
"They did a crappy job. They have to go," Lagarde, the French finance minister, said of the bankers she pushed out of their jobs at the height of global recession.
During her 2009 appearance on The Daily Show, Lagarde gave Stewart a French beret and pulled one out for herself. They each popped them jauntily on their heads.
In a rare somber moment, Stewart deplored the Jan. 7 Paris terror attack on the satiric French newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, including top cartoonists.
Comedy, he said, "shouldn't have to be an act of courage."
Ian Deitch in Jerusalem, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal and Greg Katz and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.