Arise, Daily Show Generation! Your nation beckons

February 13, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

The clarion has been sounded. The Grand Shift is nigh. And you are just about ready.

I’m speaking to you, children born and adults who came of age on or about, oh, January of 1999, just before Y2K obliterated humanity and right around the launch of your generation’s best and brightest engine of intelligent discord and sardonic resistance: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Most of you are now what, about 16, 17 maybe? Just starting to feel the pangs of wild lust and feral curiosity, just noticing how vicious and dishonest are the various injustices of the world, realizing with a fast horror how your elders screwed up the planet even worse than the generation prior and if you want to make it to 30 you’d better wake the hell up and step fearlessly into the fray, stat? You are not alone.

Even the first episodes, way back in '99, were sort of amazing, right out of the gate.

Even the first episodes, way back in ’99, were sort of amazing, right out of the gate.

If you were extraordinarily blessed, your parents did what millions of other awesome, like-minded parents did: they planted you right alongside them, four nights a week, from the day you were born, to absorb from Stewart and his roguish crew the essential skills required to navigate – or often, just tolerate – the modern madhouse we call life: wit, skepticism, thoughtfulness, self-deprecation, razor-sharp intelligence, a fearless gift for speaking truth to (often shockingly dumb) power, droll exasperation and, of course, joyfully mocking Fox News at every opportunity.

You see, Stewart, who just announced his retirement from the persistently brilliant, amazingly consistent, 18 Emmy-winning show he created from the fumes of Craig Kilborn’s tacky pop culture-fest back in ’99, is not merely signaling the end an era with his retirement.

He is not merely making millions of fans weep and wonder who could possibly take his place (Amy Schumer please please please). He’s actually declaring you, the generation raised on his show’s rare and sort of heroic cultural and political insight, fit for duty.

See, Stewart has been hosting TDS for nearly 17 years. That’s a generation. That’s your teenage niece who’s never known a world without the Daily Show to help make it more bearable. That’s millions of 30– and 40-something parents who may, in fact, have conceived their kids during one of TDS’ early airings. Hey, what were you doing in 2001? Exactly. Same as me: Having lots of sex and freaking out over this dumbass Bush guy.

Snarky political comic to wise elder of knowing satire in a mere 17 years

Snarky political comic to wise elder of knowing satire in a mere 17 years

Rest assured: There will be (and already is) much mourning and hand-wringing over Stewart’s imminent departure later this year. There will be analysis, retrospectives, best-of lists, clips of his most hilarious quotes, takedowns and eye-rolls. Not to mention all the other careers TDS helped launched (Carrell, Colbert, John Oliver, et al). There will be repeated attention to Stewart’s famous appearance on Crossfire, perhaps the most perfect summation of his anti-ideology to date.

But through it all, the realization that, if Stewart’s smart, sly satire seeped into your soul and your brainstem just right, you have no excuse not to make the leap from surly, disaffected youth – or jaded 20-something – to sly warrior of middle-finger righteousness, ready to take on the culture’s staggering demons of apathy and humorlessness.

And oh, those demons. They are enormous, and they are pungent.

Here’s the bad news, Daily Show Generation: There’s another, far larger (but much, much dumber) segment of the population out there, a quivering army of twerp-dom that’s been raised on the exact opposite of Stewart’s sly wit and acumen. This group has been tricked, drowned and pummeled by a much nastier voice of ignominy, racism and outright bulls–t, a voice which began only a few years prior to TDS, in 1996. You may know it as Fox News, AKA the Death Star.

While Fox News’ Army of Dumb is indeed much larger, it’s also unable to form complete sentences, much less comprehend them. This is, as Stewart taught every single night, your secret weapon. It takes but a few minutes of research, a nimble mind, an untiring sense of humor and a well-honed BS-detector to reduce that bloviated demon to its original state of quivering, terrified termite dung.

Of course, it won’t just be Fox News. It will be CNN. It will be MSNBC. It will be Republicans and Democrats alike, and the Tea Party, and anti-abortionists, and sexist white males, and rape culture, and the vile Koch brothers, Big Pharma and immigration and gun control and President Hillary, too, ad nauseam and on into the Void.

This is why you are so very needed. The fight is ongoing, endlessly worthy and ever in need of fresh energy. And, with a wink and a giant shrug, Stewart is hereby handing the power to you. Time to get moving, no?

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Mark Morford

About Mark Morford