When Jon Stewart took the stage at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, just one week before Election Day, he made Stand Up for Heroes feel more like Stand Up for Hillary. Or, to be more accurate: Stand Up Against Trump.
On hand for Bob Woodruff’s 10th annual benefit for injured service men and women, which kicked off this year's New York Comedy Festival, were some of comedy’s biggest stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, and Louis C.K., each of whom delivered the same stand-up material they have been perfecting on the road over the past year. But it was Stewart who brought the house down by going all-in on 2016.
As of two months ago, Trump led Clinton among active military and veteran voters by quite a large margin, despite his attacks on a Gold Star family. Or his declaration that Sen. John McCain is “not a war hero.” And that time he told a veteran who had just handed him a Purple Heart medal, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” Or the fact that his foundation donated more to the Clintons than it did to veterans groups.
But as quickly became apparent at Tuesday’s event, it shouldn’t be this way. And no one was able to hammer home just how unfit Trump is than Stewart, who has been sadly absent from the political conversation this year, save a few glorious guest appearances on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show.
“To be here tonight with you guys, my heroes, on the eve of the last American election is so exciting,” Stewart began. Now that he’s out of “the game,” he said he’s been spending most of his time screaming one question at his television: “What the fuck is going on?!”
Stewart said he “thought we were done” after the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape came out just a few weeks ago. “I thought when a guy comes off a bus and is like, ‘I’m gonna grab her in the pussy,’ the election was over! Usually that is the signifier that we don’t have to pay attention anymore.”
Pivoting to media criticism, Stewart said that video “broke the news” because all pundits on CNN could talk about was how it would play in Pennsylvania and Ohio. “As though it’s like they’re saying ‘In Delaware, we know they like to be grabbed by the pussy.’” As for Trump’s “locker-room talk” defense, he added that while he’s heard some “awful things” in locker rooms, someone admitting to sexual assault is beyond the pale. “We’re all just being disgusting but I’m pretty sure that’s a crime,” he imagined someone saying.
And then there is “poor, sweet, dearest Hillary,” who was “so ready” to be president before FBI and Anthony Weiner screwed her over one last time. “This is in-fucking-sane! We were a beautiful, great country and now this,” Stewart said. “Honestly, the first woman running for president and she’s taken down by Bush and Weiner? That’s just bad writing.”
After everything she went through with Bill, Stewart said, “To have another guy’s dick keep her from being president? Hillary Clinton is literally being cockblocked.”
Stewart also addressed the question he gets most often these days: Doesn’t he wish he were still on television every night to take on Trump. After working as a “turd miner” for nearly two decades, now that a “shit asteroid” has hit Earth, he’s perfectly happy staying out of it.
But the pièce de résistance came when Stewart pulled out a sheet of paper and began reading tweets from his Twitter war with Trump just three short years ago. It began when Trump accused Stewart of rejecting his Jewish heritage by changing his name from Jonathan Leibowitz. After a barrage of tweets in that vein, The Daily Show Twitter account responded by suggesting that Trump’s real name is #FuckFaceVonClownstick. “It would be funny if it wasn’t so toxic and horrible,” Stewart told the crowd.
“I swear to God this is true,” he added, “the man who will more than likely, given the FBI’s preference, be our next president, then tweeted, ‘Amazing how the haters and losers keep tweeting the name #FuckFaceVonClownstick.’” And then, four days later, he added, “I shit you not, perhaps the next president of the greatest country in the world, at 1:30 in the morning, tweeted, ‘Little Jon Stewart is a pussy and would be hopeless in a debate with me.’”
“Vote wisely this November,” he concluded.
As Trump continues to close the gap with Clinton, inching up in the various poll forecasts to a once unthinkable nearly 30 percent chance of becoming president, there is nothing like 15 new minutes of election material from Jon Stewart to soothe the anxieties of this crowd of wealthy New York philanthropists.
And if that didn’t work, at least there was Bruce Springsteen playing an acoustic version of “Dancing in the Dark.”