What Jon Stewart Taught Me About Legacy

Watching Jon Stewart’s final episode of “The Daily Show”, I was struck by something truly wonderful.

It wasn’t the comedy of the episode, though it was as hilarious and irreverent as ever. It wasn’t the inspirational message from Stewart on seeing through the, ahem, bull”crap” of the world. It wasn’t even the powerful final “Moment of Zen” from Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

What got to me the most about Jon Stewart’s farewell was seeing the community Stewart built return to say thanks. 


The extended opening segment of the show saw nearly every “Daily Show” correspondent over the past 16 years return in a touching tribute. While “Saturday Night Live” is often hailed as the greatest breeding ground for comedians on televsion, the seemingly never-ending cavalcade of stars “The Daily Show” has certainly given it a run for its money over the past decade.

Of course there was Steve Carell, Ed Helms, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert in the lineup. There was also Larry Wilmore, host of the new hit “The Nightly Show”. There was Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, who both have new shows coming on TBS. There was Rob Riggle and Rob Cordrry who collectively have played bit parts in nearly every comedy movie you’ve seen lately. There was Lewis Black who voiced Anger in the smash hit of the summer “Inside Out”.

While you may not have recognized every other returning face on the stage in this moment, their work on “The Daily Show” and other television series and films has shaped the comedy landscape over the past 15 years. Most of them would not have been where they are without the help of Jon Stewart.

For all the credit he gets for deconstructing the post 9/11 political landscape, Stewart doesn’t get enough credit for shepherding the next great generation of comedians.

Most of Jon Stewart’s jokes and bits will be forgotten by time. That’s ok. It’s not his talent that will establish his legacy. It’s the talent Stewart fostered in others that will be his greatest contribution to the world.

Long after classic segments and interviews from “The Daily Show” are distant memories in our minds, Stewart’s minions will be leaving their stamp on the world in new and exciting ways. Hopefully they too will then inspire their own communities of comedy as well.

If we truly want to be remembered after this life is over, we must stop worrying about ourselves. The people who leave the greatest legacy behind are the ones who invest in others more than themselves.

I read a blog post from Donald Miller last week where he talked about the communties inside churches. He wondered what it would be like if the pastor of a church saw their congretation not as an audience but as another group of pastors, who spent their Sundays equipping the congregation to be pastors themselves, and if each member of the church then went out to pastor to their community.

I love this notion. I think we are meant to pastor our communities not just to heal them but to inspire them to pastor others.

What would it look like If each of us became secure enough in our positions that we started focusing on building up the people around us and inspiring them on to greatness instead of worrying about our own careers? 

I think it would look like Jon Stewart not simply creating a classic comedy show but establishing an entire comedy scene. I think for Christians it would look like not simply creating a popular church but establishing an entire community of believers looking to serve others above themselves.

We are better off when we inspire others to become even better than ourselves.

It is not our financial endeavors but the lives we invest in that will pay dividends after we pass away. Our legacies will be measured by the communities we create. 

What kind of community are you trying to build?


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