NEW YORK • After 16 years of taking satirical aim at the hypocrisy of politics and the fatuousness of the news media, Jon Stewart said goodbye to The Daily Show on Thursday evening with a passionate speech urging his audience not to accept falsehoods and misinformation in their lives.
Stewart, 52, who has presided over the Comedy Central news-parody show since 1999, concluded his final episode with a spirited sermon against what he euphemistically described as "social-contract fertiliser".
He also used a familiar and much stronger epithet, "bulls***".
Blatant mendacity, he said, has become ubiquitous and pernicious.
"Whenever something's been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good long sniff," he said.
The only way to combat the relentless intrusions of dishonest people, he said, was through vigilance.
"Their work is easily detected, and looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time," he said. "So if you smell something, say something."
And then, for good measure, there was a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Among the celebrated alumni who paid their final tributes, Steve Carell, who went on to star in NBC's The Office and films such as 2014's Foxcatcher, joked that he had never really left The Daily Show.
"Becoming an international superstar is just something I did while waiting for my next assignment," he said.
Stewart's Daily Show successor, Trevor Noah, wandered onto the set to measure the set and... Stewart's crotch.
"Could you give me like 20 more minutes?" Stewart asked him.
In a taped montage, several of Stewart's past targets of ridicule, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and political pundit Bill O'Reilly, fired back good-natured ripostes at him.
And of course, there was a visit from Stephen Colbert, the former Daily Show correspondent and star of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, who is about to succeed David Letterman as the host of CBS' Late Show.
In a sincere and seemingly unscripted speech, he told Stewart that, though Stewart had previously told his staff members "never to thank you because we owe you nothing", this was "one of the few times I have known you to be dead wrong".
"You were infuriatingly good at your job," Colbert told Stewart. "All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours."
Stewart, whose handful of extracurricular activities include writing and directing the 2014 drama Rosewater, has kept relatively quiet about his plans, except to say he intends to spend more time with his family.
In his final remarks to his audience, Stewart thanked his wife and children "for teaching me what joy looks like", and told his viewers that he was not leaving their lives for good.
"Nothing ends," he said. "It's just a continuation. It's a pause in the conversation.
"So rather than saying goodbye or good night, I'm just going to say: I'm going to go get a drink. And I'm sure I'll see you guys before I leave."
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE