Imagine retiring from your job, and getting a farewell card signed by every single person with whom you ever worked.

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This article was published 6/8/2015 (2477 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

Imagine retiring from your job, and getting a farewell card signed by every single person with whom you ever worked.

That’s essentially what Jon Stewart received on his final edition of The Daily Show on Thursday night, in a special double-length show filled with equal measures of heart, humour, gratitude, genuine emotion and what was most assuredly the best musical play-off any entertainer has ever enjoyed.

Stewart’s last fake newscast began with a mention of the evening’s Republican candidates’ debate, which was quickly revealed to be a flimsy ruse to introduce a non-stop parade of current and former Daily Show correspondents popping in to pay tribute to their about-to-be-former boss.

The roll call was impressive, to say the least, including (but certainly not limited to) Aasif Mandvi, Al Madrigal, John Hodgman, Lewis Black, Kristen Schaal, Samantha Bee, Steve Carell, Vance DeGeneres, Jason Jones (via satellite from Georgia, where he’s shooting a new TV series), Josh Gad, Rob Corddry (who praised Stewart as "the brother I never had," right before actual sibling Nate Corddry popped up from behind the desk), Olivia Munn, Rob Riggle, Ed Helms and John Oliver.

Senior black correspondent Larry Wilmore, now host of the show that replaced The Colbert Report, also stopped by. "Got nuthin’ else to do; The Nightly Show got bumped," he deadpanned.

The hour-long program also featured video "greetings" from several of The Daily Show’s favourite satirical targets during Stewart’s 16-year run, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ("I’ll never forget you, Jon, but I will be trying"), Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CNN host Wolf Blitzer (who offered, "Jon, I just don’t know what to say," as the words "SCREW YOU, STEWART" appeared in giant letters on the screen behind him), John Kerry, John McCain and Fox News personality and frequent sparring partner Bill O’Reilly (who half-yelled, "Have fun feeding your rabbits, quitter!").

The last word, co-workers-wise, was left to Stephen Colbert, who arrived with the expected brief greeting but then prevented Stewart from throwing to commercial so he could go off script and offer a heartfelt message on behalf of all Stewart’s colleagues, past and present.

We owe you, because we learned from you," he said, as a visibly emotional Stewart squirmed in his chair. "You are infuriatingly good at your job."

After a fade-to-black group hug and a commercial break, Stewart returned to his desk and paid tribute to his staff and co-workers in the way he always has: "It’s not the show; it’s the process of the show, and the people of the show, and the atmosphere. I’ve been in show business a very long time, and I’ve worked in a lot of atmospheres, at varying levels of toxicity, and this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. And I’ll never have that again."

Stewart cued up a long, uninterrupted, Goodfellas-style tracking shot that showed viewers every corner of The Daily Show’s operation, then followed the next break with some well-measured remarks about the inevitability of bullsh** in American politics and industry, and the need to expose and ridicule it. "The best defence against bullsh** is vigilance," he said, "so if you smell something ... say something."

In the show’s last segment, Stewart avoided actually saying farewell, opting instead to act like he was just moving to a different part of an ongoing party. "Rather than saying goodbye or goodnight, I’m just going to say I’m going to get a drink, and I’m sure I’ll see you guys before I go."

And with that, Stewart’s last night on The Daily Show ended in the only way a Jersey guy could hope or wish, with the Jersey guy, Bruce Springsteen, providing the best response to the age-old entertainers’ request for "A little traveling music, maestro!", well, ever.

At Stewart’s request, The Boss and the E-Street Band played Land of Hope and Dreams, then turned the final few moments into a dance party with the inevitable closer, Born to Run.

It was as close to perfect as TV moments get. And it was the kind of exit Stewart fully deserved.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

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Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.