If you’re a fan of American late night television, the last nine months or so might feel like an unending string of sad goodbyes. Last December, we bid farewell to The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on back-to-back nights, and then in May the great David Letterman signed off on the The Late Show for the last time. Those were all bittersweet and heartwarming to various degrees, but for many TV fans they weren’t the hardest shows to let go of. For that we had to wait until August, and the final episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Last night, surrounded by family, friends, colleagues, and Bruce Springsteen, Stewart took an entire hour to say goodbye, and he often did it from the backseat, letting his correspondents, his staff and his fans steer the ship for a while, to let them know how much he cared about them, and to let us know he couldn’t have done the show without them. When Stewart did take the spotlight, though, he reminded us of his show’s most important lesson, and made sure we all knew that this isn’t really goodbye.
You can watch the full episode on Hulu, but if you missed the show last night and want the best parts, or you just want to relive some of it, here are the essential moments:
THE CORRESPONDENTS GATHER
We all expected some of Stewart’s former Daily Show correspondents, many of whom have gone on to great fame after the show, to stop by for the finale, but we couldn’t have expected anything this big. What started with current correspondents Jessica Williams, Jordan Klepper, and Hasan Minhaj quickly grew into a crowd that included everyone from Lewis Black to Samantha Bee, and just when you thought the bit was over, more familiar faces came out of the woodwork. Larry Wilmore broke Stewart’s straight face, Ed Helms sang a song, and even former host Craig Kilborn made an appearance. As the segment went on, it began to feel like it was building to something, and then it happened…
COLBERT GOES OFF SCRIPT
The Daily Show finale would’ve felt empty without Stephen Colbert, the former correspondent who launched a successful companion show and became a pop culture persona that was more-or-less Stewart’s equal. Colbert, just weeks away from launching The Late Show, sat down next to Stewart, who faced away from him — in part for a particular kind of tableau shot and, perhaps, because he was afraid he’d cry if he looked in Colbert’s eyes — while the two shared a few Lord of the Rings jokes. Then, when Stewart tried to cut to commercial, Colbert stopped him and provided what’s probably the night’s most memorable moment: a heartfelt, unscripted thank you that Stewart didn’t want, but it made him cry anyway.
JON’S TARGETS GET REVENGE
The show was dominated by plenty of Stewart’s friends, but there was also, inevitably, a segment devoted to all the people he’s relentlessly mocked over the years. In a video montage that played during the correspondents segment, everyone from Wolf Blitzer to John Kerry to John McCain and his puppet (no, really) got one last chance to say “Screw You, Stewart.”
THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SHOW
Stewart wanted to take the time to recognize all the people behind the camera who make the show possible, but he also wanted to be creative about it. So, we got a Goodfellas-style tracking shot around the Daily Show offices, complete with a special Goodfellas cameo.
THREE KINDS OF BULLSHIT
Stewart didn’t make much time in his final show for picking apart the news media and how it deceives, exploits, and obfuscates, but he did take a moment to try and teach his viewers one final lesson, a lesson that forms the undercurrent of pretty much everything his show tried to do: “If you smell something, say something.”
For his final monologue from behind the Daily Show desk, Stewart thanked everyone who’s been a part of the show, thanked his family, and then reminded everyone watching that his leaving the show was merely “a pause in the conversation,” and offered this signoff: “Rather than saying goodbye or goodnight, I’m just gonna say: ‘I’m gonna go get a drink, and I’m sure I’ll see you guys before I leave.’”