Tim Greenberg: For the last week, I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary. Jon’s been saying all along we want to do our regular shows and do that up until the end, and that’s it. Say goodbye. It’s not some big weepy, sentimental anything. Well, maybe there’ll be tears on the last night, but other than that…
Jen Flanz: He’s very emotional, I’m sure he’ll cry. No, I think the whole thing is we want to make the last week of shows really fun. The guests will be friends of his and comics. And then on the last show, it will be a really happy celebration of his 16 years here.
…And the final episode
Flanz: It’s definitely not going to be a current events-based show. We’re the news that day. We’re the news!
Greenberg: Yeah, it’ll be a show about the show.
Flanz: Hopefully there’s no big breaking news that day! I’ve thought about that already. What if something happens?! That would really mess with our plans.
Greenberg: Yeah, that is not the plan. That would be a nightmare. …
Flanz: I would say if there are people you think you want to see say goodbye to Jon, they might be coming… We don’t want to give anything away, but it’ll be exciting!
Greenberg: If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll probably be a fan of the last episode.
The current mood at work
Flanz: It’s gotten pretty emotional in the way that everyone here is emotional—we’re making jokes of each other’s emotions. But in reality, it’s been a real light, happy time.
Greenberg: We still do have a show to put on everyday, so we’re burying ourselves in our work and try not to be sad about this place that love with Jon ending. We’ll see when all the tears actually come. …
Part of the problem is the byzantine structure of the entertainment industry. The Daily Show is broadcast on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the Mission Impossible franchise. In 2005, Comedy Central felt Paramount’s wrath after airing an episode of South Park titled “Trapped in the Closet,” which parodied Cruise and Scientology. The episode was scheduled to air again in 2006, but was reportedly yanked after Cruise threatened to pull out of the publicity tour for Mission Impossible III (Cruise’s representative denied he did any such thing). Coincidentally, the only Daily Show mention of Scientology that can be found online is from 2005, when then-correspondent Stephen Colbert briefly detailed its rumored theology in a skit referring to Cruise’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. (Colbert went on to criticize the Church several times on The Colbert Report, which was also broadcast on Comedy Central, and even interviewed Lawrence Wright about Going Clear in 2013.)
The question for Jon Stewart, then, is why bother giving a huge movie star a meaningless six-minute spot to promote a movie at all? Stewart leaves The Daily Show next week after 16 years hosting the show, during which time he’s been lauded for his incisive interviews with everyone from President Obama to Pervez Musharraf to Angelina Jolie. In 2008, The New York Times asked if he was the most trusted man in America, writing that The Daily Show offers insight that often eludes mainstream news, “speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language.” In his interviews over the years, Stewart has lambasted Senator John McCain for agreeing to speak at Liberty University, criticized Al Gore for selling his television station to a network funded by oil money, and accused Judith Miller of deliberately favoring the Bush administration in her reporting leading up to the Iraq War. Why devote precious time in one of his final episodes to helping a controversial actor promote a movie that doesn’t need the boost?