“This must be so exciting for you to see me here,” the gray-bearded Jon Stewart told the packed house at the 11th annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit in New York City Tuesday night. “‘Oh, I can’t believe it, it’s Jon Stewart’s grandfather!’”
Stewart likes to joke these days that he’s “old as fuck,” as he did again at the event, which kicked off the 2017 New York Comedy Festival and benefitted the Bob Woodruff Foundation for wounded veterans. He explained that while “black don’t crack,” Jews “age like avocados.” After leaving The Daily Show, Stewart said he had let himself go, but the premature aging might have another culprit: President Donald Trump.
Before Stewart performed his approximately 10-minute set, the audience, which included a large number of veterans and active service members, was on its feet for the national anthem, sung impeccably by Hamilton’s original Aaron Burr, Leslie Odom Jr. In her opening remarks, with husband and former ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff, Lee Woodruff suggested putting politics aside to “just laugh” tonight. But Stewart was never going to leave politics out of his act.
It was just over a year ago that Jon Stewart was on stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden urging the American people to “vote wisely” during the annual benefit. One week later, they failed to heed his advice and elected Trump as president of the United States.
Stewart was back on that same stage Tuesday night. This time, he was there to reflect on our collective first year of President Trump. “What happened?” he asked innocently after joking that he had “blacked out” after last year’s Election Day. “Did my candidate win?”
“I understand the people that felt like the forgotten man, or, this guy talks straight talk, so I’m going to vote for him,” Stewart said. What he doesn’t understand is the 10-15 percent Barack Obama voters who then voted for Donald Trump. “How does that happen?”
He imagined their mind-set: “You know who I want to vote for is that very staid, professorial gentleman from Kenyan birth who has an articulate sense and is a bit standoffish, that’s the guy that I really love. But since he’s not running this year… I’m gonna check out the ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ candidate.”
“How do you even get there?” Stewart asked, comparing it to a guy who breaks up with his girlfriend to date a toaster instead. “That’s really, I think, where our country is at right now,” he said. “We put our dick in the toaster and we’re all waiting to see what happens. What the fuck, man?”
In response to this past weekend’s mass shooting at a church in Texas, Stewart asked the crowd, “Remember the good ol’ days when we were just worried about neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville?” As a Jew, he said, “that freaked me the fuck out.”
In a bit that Stewart undoubtedly would have delivered on The Daily Show had he still be hosting this summer, he shot back at Trump’s “two sides” rhetoric by saying, “Yeah, it’s called the Allied powers and the Axis powers. Pretty sure we used to be with the Allied powers.” To the white supremacists who chanted “Jews will not replace us,” he said, “Pretty easy to say in August. But wait ‘til Christmas time when you need someone to fill in your shift at Pizzeria Uno.”
Also on the bill Tuesday night were Stewart’s Daily Show successor Trevor Noah and his former colleague, Last Week Tonight host John Oliver.
Noah used his recent week in Chicago as a jumping-off point to talk about how much he misses President Obama, who delivered a speech in that city last week. “I watched it and I was like, oh yeah, sentences, wow,” he said.
“Do you ever stop and think to yourself: It’s only been eight months?” Noah asked, referring to Trump’s first term, which is actually closer to 10 months old. “40 more months to go. Or less. You never know.”
The Russia investigation aside, Noah predicted that Trump might just quit after two years. “And he would just walk out of the White House and say, ‘Unlike most presidents, I did it in half the time, folks.’”
Oliver, meanwhile, compared loving America under Trump to being in love with a girl throwing up on herself. “Just holding her hair back saying, ‘Shh, let it all out. You just made a mistake, that’s all. You can’t repeat this mistake, though, otherwise you become less sympathetic.’”