With Jon Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show pending, now seems like an opportune time to reflect, and perhaps even find some moments to meditate on. Fortunately, The Daily Show has already been providing us with these for years. Now here they are—your “Moments of Zen.”
1. “A Puppy” (September 20, 2001)
In 2001, Jon Stewart may have had the hardest job in television when he went on the air just nine days after the September 11th terrorist attacks. As the host of The Daily Show, his job is to address the news in satirical fashion and make the viewers laugh—a seemingly insurmountable task at a time of such grief. Stewart and the crew pulled through, though, and the episode concluded with the host putting a puppy on his desk as a much-needed “Moment of Zen.”
2. The Shirtless Trifecta (October 11, 2001)
Today, the arrival of a clip such as this one would undoubtedly be dubbed “Internet-breaking.” Back in 2001, though, it was merely three hirsute men striking sensual topless poses for the sake of comedy. Colbert and Carell would go on to become the two most famous The Daily Show alumni, and this clip is certainly one of their finer contributions to the show.
3. George W. Bush Jams in Singapore (November 16, 2006)
Go ahead and put this one in the ‘surreal’ category. On a trip to Singapore in 2006, then president George W. Bush took the time to play a pretty little tune on a gamelan, which was soon accompanied by rhythmic clapping from the locals. Time will tell if revisionist historians choose to document Bush as a former U.S. president, or a character created by Comedy Central writers.
4. No Worries, the State of the Union is Strong (January 29, 2008)
The Daily Show
has always had a knack for finding continuity in clips that span a stretch of time. And as president, George W. Bush always had a knack for repeating himself. The January 29, 2008 episode commemorated the exiting president’s time in office by showing how he declared the state of the union to be “strong” at every single address during his two terms.
If you close your eyes for this “Moment of Zen,” you might think some whacky, whizbang cartoon is on the screen. In a way, you’d be correct, but this is actually a perfectly-cut compilation of the ridiculous sound effects utilized by Mad Money host Jim Cramer. The true punchline comes at the end, though, when Cramer advises viewers to buy stock in the now famously-failed investment bank, Bear Sterns.
6. “Progressive is the new word for communist” (March 29, 2010)
This clip is practically curated to be Daily Show fodder. It’s the perfect recipe for everything Stewart’s satire feeds on: FOX News? Check. Someone calling President Obama a communist? Check. There’s even a cherry on top with the perfect soundbite, “Glenn Beck has taught me well.”
7. “We Just Killed Bin Laden!” (May 2, 2011)
When the U.S. killed Osama Bin Laden (or Usama, according to this FOX News clip) after a decade-long hunt in 2011, the country was mostly united in celebration. Front pages of publications read “WE GOT HIM” and for a moment, opposition to President Obama was as close to muted as it could ever be. There was also this guy, who displayed his patriotism by totally not studying for his finals.
8. Mitt Romney Wanders On Screen With a Mouthful of Food (August 11, 2011)
There are many memories that could easily come to mind when thinking of Mitt Romney. The former challenger for the United States presidency definitely got plenty of camera time on FOX News, but one of his better cameos was when he wandered on screen with a mouthful of food. It was a case of “who surprised who?” when Romney found himself next to Carl Cameron, who was reporting live from an Iowa straw poll.
9. Sarah Palin’s Opinion on Polls (September 8, 2011)
Ever since she emerged as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin has been a reliable source for some grating, yet unintentionally laughable moments. The former governor has never shied away from snide remarks, often presenting herself as the brash Alaskan. Here, Palin declares that polls are unimportant to her and should be reserved for strippers and skiers (though those would be poles).
10. George H. W. Bush on Bieber (June 12, 2012)
As soon as Justin Bieber rose to pop prominence, the question on everyone’s mind was, “What does George H. W. Bush think of him?” Well, maybe not everyone, but Jenna Bush needed to know the answer when she interviewed her grandfather in 2012. Spoiler alert: the former president isn’t much of a Belieber.
11. Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman (February 3, 2014)
On occasion, the “Moment of Zen” can be poignant, if necessary. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death in early 2014 was a hard gut punch, as Stewart put it, for both those who knew the actor personally and those who were fans of his work. This fitting tribute captures what made Hoffman so beloved as an actor and as a person, as he explains his philosophy on why every actor should always give their best in every opportunity they’re given.
12. “Did He Smoke Crack Again?” (May 1, 2014)
Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s numerous naughty shenanigans were constantly making headlines in 2013. From smoking crack on camera, to admitting to unleashing profanity-filled rants on a regular basis, Ford seemed like a gift from the political satire gods. Here, CBS This Morning host Gayle King proves how after a while, reporting on Rob Ford became satire-worthy itself.
13. Donald Rumsfeld: Alien Lizard? (July 29, 2014)
This moment comes courtesy of the wonderful workings of Wikipedia. At the time, the online encyclopedia was having some issues with ‘disruptive editing,’ with a notable case being former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s page stating that he was “an alien lizard who eats Mexican babies.” Freedom of speech, right?
14. Mitch McConnell’s Creepy Smile (January 12, 2015)
With old favorites like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin out of the regular spotlight, Senator Mitch McConnell has become the new “chosen one” for being the butt of The Daily Show’s jokes. In McConnell’s case, it’s not so much what he says that makes him a target, but rather the fact that he—as Stewart often alludes to—resembles a turtle. In this clip, McConnell flashes a creepy smile deserving of an award from the Academy of Awkwardness.
15. “Jon’s Announcement” (February 10, 2015)
The news that Jon Stewart is nearing his exit from The Daily Show blindsided both the media and the show’s faithful fans. At the time, the February 10, 2015 episode aired, many were already aware of the news; however, Stewart’s studio audience was clearly hearing it for the first time when he addressed the matter in the usual “Moment of Zen” spot. As he recalled the opportunity he was first given 17 years ago and insisted that the show doesn’t deserve a host who is even slightly restless, Stewart displayed the endearing eloquence that has made him such a welcome presence in so many homes for nearly two decades.