Home Culture Culture Lists

Best of Enemies: Jon Stewart’s 10 Favorite ‘Daily Show’ Targets

From Fox News to Arby’s, the folks commonly caught in the comedian’s crosshairs

jon stewart

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart never featured a sidekick like Ed McMahon or Andy Richter — in their place, Stewart introduced a rotating cast of cleverly clueless correspondents. But even more memorably, he managed to assemble a Murderers' Row of punching-bag public figures who unwittingly became supporting players in the show's nightly cavalcade of mockery and scorn.

Zeroing in on hypocritical politicians and blowhard media personalities, Stewart and his writers could produce a week's worth of material from, say, the absurdity of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign or a certain senator's resemblance to a tortoise. Here now are 10 of his greatest nemeses, everything from Dubya to the home of Bullshit Mountain to America's most popular purveyors of roast beef.

jon stewart

Glenn Beck

Many of Stewart's greatest foes inspired his best work. We acknowledge this may be a minority opinion, but that wasn't the case with Glenn Beck. Sure, the fuming conservative gave The Daily Show plenty of great material thanks to his nut-job Fox News Channel show. But there seemed to be something deeply disturbing about Beck's tin-foil-hat paranoia that provoked not just humor but outright aghast disbelief in the comedian: He wasn't so much funny as he was apoplectic in response. How else to explain the special 2009 episode that was an extended parody of Beck's Tea Party-friendly 9-12 project, with Stewart going full method actor to conjure up his nemesis's wide-eyed insanity? Or the painfully sincere Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in 2010, organized just a couple months after Beck's uber-patriotic Restoring Honor rally? Thankfully, Beck's political relevance has faded ever since Fox News dropped him in 2011, and the show's host could focus his righteousness and furious anger elsewhere.

jon stewart

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

For years after 9/11, Iraq War supporters were able to rebuke their opponents with emotionally manipulative "Support the troops" platitudes. Starting in the spring of 2013, Stewart illustrated the hypocrisy of those sentiments by diving deep into the gross incompetence of the government's Veterans Affairs office, highlighting the suffocating bureaucracy that returning soldiers faced when they sought treatment for their physical and psychological injuries. The Daily Show first took aim at the department's stunningly antiquated computer system, which hadn't been updated since 1985. ("Have you ever caught the movie The Net on late-night cable and laughed out loud alone at how outdated the technology seems?" Stewart asked in 2014. "That's 10 years more advanced than what the VA is currently using.") But as time went on, he added a do-nothing Congress to his attack, as well as President Obama, consistently reminding us that our country's leaders enjoy hiding behind the troops when it's politically expedient but don't do nearly enough to help them when it counts.

jon stewart

Donald Trump

The Donald elicits a strange set of mixed emotions within Stewart. On one hand, the loudmouthed egomaniac is such a cartoonish figure that it's very easy for The Daily Show just to treat him like the joke he is. (And in the past, Stewart and Trump had a congenial rapport on the show, with the billionaire proving to be a lively guest.) But as Stewart prepares to head off into the sunset, he's been both wistful and appalled by Trump's brash climb to the top of the GOP presidential polls. (Ridiculing Trump's bizarre escalator ride down to his press conference where he'd announce his candidacy, Stewart opined, "I haven't seen an entrance that majestic since my friend met me at the Gap after grabbing an Orange Julius.") In recent months, Stewart has looked quite happy to leave the anchor chair behind. But as Trump gave him day after day of risible, ridiculous material, the long-running host almost seemed sad to be hanging it up. Almost.

jon stewart

Arby’s

"The Hannity of Roast Beef Sandwiches." "Because Your Hunger Is Stronger Than Your Memory." "Technically, It’s Food." Those are but three of the fake slogans Stewart has come up with for his favorite fast-food laughing stock. Of all Jon's beefs over the years, his slagging of Arby's felt more playful than serious, the Daily Show host often laughing apologetically after each new putdown. (The constant good-natured ribbing prompted some to wonder if the whole thing wasn't an elaborate stealth-advertising campaign for the company, a suspicion the show spoofed last week during a segment highlighting some of his best Arby's digs.) When Stewart announced his retirement in February, Arby's good-naturedly offered the comedian a job via Twitter. Not missing a beat, Stewart responded, "I do not accept your peace offer. We shall always be enemies! For while you are a worthy adversary, you will be vanquished." And then he offered one more unsolicited slogan: "Arby's: Come for the Tweets, Run From the Meats."