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Jon Stewart's best moment wasn't on 'The Daily Show.' It was the day he eviscerated CNN.

"See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians..."

Jon Stewart changed the way I think about TV news.

He's always been a hero of mine. As he finishes his last week at Comedy Central, I wanted to reflect on the moment he opened my eyes to the way the world really works.

The most important thing he ever taught me wasn't on "The Daily Show."


It was on another show entirely. A horrible show. A show that represented everything wrong with our country's political discourse. The show that was the precursor to all the worst things on cable news today.

It was the CNN show "Crossfire."

All GIFs via CNN's "Crossfire."

"Crossfire," a debate show where partisan hacks yelled past each other, was and is the epitome of everything wrong with cable news shows. But it was basically every other cable news show, just on steroids.

Prior to Stewart's appearance on "Crossfire," I had a pretty simplistic view of politics. My guys were good, their guys were bad, and there was nothing in between. Everything was their fault. Their side was lying to hurt America.

Jon Stewart helped me realize how wrong I was.

On Oct. 19, 2004, Jon Stewart broke "Crossfire." For good.

Stewart had a history of making fun of "Crossfire," as he did with all irresponsible television masquerading as journalism on every single TV network.

So when the guys at "Crossfire," Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, invited him to be on their show, Stewart seized the opportunity. And I grabbed my bowl of popcorn, sat back on my couch, and watched, transfixed.

What followed was 14 glorious minutes of television that eloquently expressed everything that had been in my head about the TV media (see "Crossfire," above) that I hadn't yet been able to express coherently.

For 14 minutes, Stewart held the media accountable for not holding politicians and corporations accountable.

You know how the pundits on these shows yell shrill talking points at each other, respond to questions people didn't ask, and ignore each other, and then the host goes to commercial without fact-checking anyone?

Otherwise known as "every cable news show ever." Politicians count on that.

Stewart pulled back the curtain for the viewers while pulling the rug out from under the hosts of the show.

Stewart shone a big 'ol spotlight on a problem with the media that hadn't been addressed so directly before: TV media works under the concept of "fairness," he argued, meaning these networks give both sides of an issue equal time regardless of the validity of those positions or their level of expertise or authority on a subject.

And Stewart, like myself and millions of other Americans, was just plain sick of it.

In short...

It.

Was.

Glorious.

And throughout the segment, he reiterated a phrase that sticks in my brain even to this day:

Then a miracle happened. The best part of this whole story?

It happened a few months later. On Jan. 5, 2005, a couple months after Stewart's "Crossfire" appearance aired, the show was cancelled.

And there was much rejoicing — specifically in my living room, where I probably did some sort of awkward victory dance.

The NY Times reported that then-CNN President Jonathan Klein said its cancellation was in part due to Stewart's appearance.

"Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at 'Crossfire' when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were 'hurting America.'

Mr. Klein said last night, 'I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise.'"

Disappointingly, CNN's president didn't agree as much as he originally implied. CNN brought back "Crossfire" again. And then cancelled it, thankfully, again. But its spirit lives on in every mediocre, divisive 24-hour news cycle.

Here's the thing. Cable news shouldn't be dividing us.

Jon Stewart's appearance on "Crossfire" clearly explained that the media should be informing us and holding the people in power accountable.

All this time, I had been blaming the other side for our problems. But the reality is they wouldn't be getting away with it if our media were functional.

I can't blame the foxes for eating the chickens they guard in the henhouse when the media has a responsibility to make sure they don't work there in the first place.

Every news network does it. CNN isn't the only guilty party. Fox News does it. MSNBC does it.

Even today, every network lets their panelists say what they want without consequences. In the name of "balance."

So how should cable news hosts do their jobs?

If the Democrat says the sky is green and the Republican says the sky is plaid, do you want the host to say, "We'll have to leave it there"?

Or do you want the host to say: "Actually, that is factually incorrect. You both are either lying or misinformed. I won't be bringing you back on my show if you mislead people again."

Jon Stewart opened my eyes. We don't need to get rid of the media. We need the media to their job.

Jon Stewart made me realize that the divide between most Americans is a false one.

Letting these pundits speak for us, allowing them to pigeonhole all of us as "left" or "right," should not be allowed to happen. All of us have shades of gray.

It's a media-created cartoon, meant to keep us fighting among ourselves while the folks upstairs get away with whatever they want.

We're better than that. And until we hold the media accountable, the media won't hold anyone else accountable.

Thank you for 15 great years, Jon. I know you don't think you eviscerated anything and that you didn't make a difference, but you did. Thank you for forcing the media to occasionally do something right. Thank you for being the voice of reason and sanity that we all needed.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


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