Five Ways ‘The Daily Show’ Has Influenced Showbiz, Politics

Jon Stewart at last October's "Rally to Restore Sanity" (Photo: Getty Images)

The 15th anniversary of “The Daily Show” came and went this past Thursday without comment from host Jon Stewart.

We have no idea if this was some sort of intentional omission or not, but we have our theories about why no mention was made of this milestone. Probably, the most likely reason was this: The show today is titled officially “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” When it premiered on July 21, 1996, it was “The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn,” who stuck around until Stewart took over in January 1999.

In other words, the Stewart regime probably dates its anniversaries from the date he started, which means we might see a 15th anniversary commemoration in January 2014, should Stewart still be on the show.

But just because Stewart chose not to mark the occasion, it doesn’t mean we can’t. So, we salute thee, “Daily Show,” with our list of the five ways “The Daily Show” has influenced TV, show business and politics:

1) A bigger source of news than the news: TV comedians had long been a source of “news” for people who missed the early-evening newscasts and then only heard the headlines from watching the monologues delivered by Johnny Carson, Jay Leno or David Letterman just before midnight. But “The Daily Show” took the comedy-as-news-source idea to a whole new level – a satirical show that hewed so closely to an actual newscast that, for many people, “The Daily Show” and real news are now pretty much the same thing.

2) A cable cornerstone: In 1996, cable TV was nowhere near as strong a competitor as it is today vs. the broadcast networks – especially in late-night. Cable, of course, has made great strides in the last 15 years in leveling the playing field with broadcast TV, but the foundations for that growth are due to a handful of landmark shows – “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” on HBO, for example, or “The Shield” on FX. But in the field of comedy (particularly late-night) no show did more to put cable (and Comedy Central) on the TV map than “The Daily Show.”

3) A talent factory: Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Josh Gad and about a score of other stars became famous on “The Daily Show,” which has had an uncanny ability to identify and nurture comedic talent.

4) Another thing for politicians to worry about: How “The Daily Show” will react to their pronouncements, missteps and/or misbehaviors has become yet another thing for politicians, particularly those on the campaign trail, to be concerned about. Generally speaking, there’s no escape. When politicians make mistakes, they can be certain “The Daily Show” writers will sharpen their pencils and make it hurt.

5) It’s more than just a TV show: Last October’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” – featuring Stewart and Colbert holding forth before an audience of thousands in Washington – demonstrated that “The Daily Show” (and “The Colbert Report”) is more than just a comedy show, as Stewart keeps insisting. “The Daily Show” is as much a symbol and a standard-bearer to a certain group of people as Glenn Beck’s old Fox News Channel show was to another group of people. “The Daily Show” is enormously influential, whether Stewart cares to admit it or not.

The anniversary was not mentioned, but we still recommend you watch the July 21, 2011, “Daily Show”:

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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