Jon Stewart’s exit from The Daily Show this week isn’t just a loss for television viewers, but for book lovers as well. We challenge all talk show hosts left in his wake to do what he has done for books: not just to promote them, but to celebrate them and their authors as a vital part of our culture.
Authors of best-selling and notable books have been a staple of the late-night talk show for as long as the format has existed. From Johnny Carson to Dick Cavett to Tom Snyder to David Letterman to Seth Meyers, talk-show hosts have welcomed authors, injecting a little intellectual discussion between interviews with vapid celebrities hawking their latest blockbuster film.
It was Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, however, that established the author interview as a must-see segment, even on a show filled with fake news and biting satire. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to attend a taping of The Daily Show (and I have been), you can tell as soon as Stewart takes the stage that he’s the smartest guy in the room—armed with not merely a quick wit, but also with a rich intellect and a genuine curiosity about the world and absolutely everything in it. And he seems to take genuine pleasure in stepping aside and letting authors shine as they display their expertise. Often the conversations are so long and fascinating viewers are referred to The Daily Show website to see the extended interviews in their entirety.
In the meantime, here are some of our favorite authors who have sat down with Stewart at the Daily Show desk. Enjoy and then go out and read the books for yourself.
In this interview, modern TV icon Stewart chats with 1970s TV icon Norman Lear (producer of All in the Family, Maude, and Good Times, among others) about Lear’s memoir, Even This I Get to Experience (available in paperback from Penguin Books in October). Lear, says Stewart, is “the man who raised me.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren
Warren, a frequent Stewart guest, visited The Daily Show to talk about her book, A Fighting Chance (Picador, 2015). And no, Jon couldn’t get her to say that she was running for president.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
History sounds fascinating when Goodwin discusses it, and even more so when she discusses it with Stewart. Here she is talking about her book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism (Simon and Schuster, 2014).
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Did you enjoy your dose of history? Now try some science, as Stewart talks with the multi-media science guru about Tyson’s Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013).
Possibly our favorite Daily Show guest ever, Nobel Prize-winner Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage advocate for female education, is the one guest who leaves Stewart slack-jawed, pie-eyed, and dumbstruck in amazement for her transcendent courage and message for hope and peace. Here she is talking about her book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Little, Brown and Company 2013).
Who do you think might pick up the mantle of late night author interviewer? Let us know in the comments.