Jon Stewart struggled to put on a Daily Show on Monday night that could contain the tragedy of the Arizona shootings. “The more this show deals with current events, the harder it becomes when reality is sad,” he said. It looked as though he might extract a joke from the show-must-go-on situation by saying that no one on the staff wanted to do one of the show’s fake-background correspondent segments by having John Oliver appear in “panda pajamas,” under the impression that he had the night off (“No one wants to do this”) and was going to bed.
But Stewart returned to the topic. He said that while it was interesting to watch “the political-pundit world working [...] to exonerate their side from blame,” we should “not conflate our political opponents with enemies.” But Stewart ultimately concluded, “I have no f—ing idea” about the motives from which the murderous shooter was working. “You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t use this opportunity to make sure that the world we are creating now [...] wasn’t better than the one we previously lost.”
For the second segment, Stewart punted and showed an old taped piece about “old people having sex… it’s as timely now as it was when we ran it two years ago,” the host said.
Then Denis Leary, sporting a rather startling short-ish haircut, came out and, just as Stewart had promised, they playfully insulted each other for a final segment.
It may sound like a flimsy show, but simply by expressing the confusion, sadness, and frustration he felt, Stewart was performing a small service — that is, mirroring our own confusion, sadness, and frustration about the awful event in Arizona. That’s something that shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.
P.S. Check out the latest EW TV Insiders Podcast as Dalton Ross, Mandi Bierly, Adam B. Vary, and I tackle subjects ranging from The Bachelor (thank goodness Mandi watches that) to Adam’s exclusive scoop on the new American Idol judges panel to what mid-season TV shows are worth watching (that’s where I come in). You can hear it right here.