Tonight is Jon Stewart's last night as host of "The Daily Show" after 16 years at the helm.

As the "fake news" and comedy program has become increasingly political, so has Stewart shifted, in how he addresses real news, terrible news, news that affects the country's fringes to its most culturally active.

While Stewart's bits and scripts handily dwelled in cynicism and sarcasm, the entertainer's knack for bringing that plane out of a nosedive -- whether with physical comedy, or with an uplifting guest, or suggesting active solutions for armchair activists -- is nothing short of magic.

I enjoyed reading appreciation pieces like Inkoo Kang's "In Praise of Jon Stewart: The Bro Who Evolved" and Harry Cheadle's "Growing Up With Jon Stewart" because they address Stewart as a performer who progresses, advances, adjusts and grows.

We -- as critics, fans, consumers -- aren't always good with change. Stewart's brand and his jokes have arced throughout his career on the show, sometimes with hostility, silliness, earnestness, nihilism, over-investment, humility, insanity or on the backs of his supporting talent and writers.

When he announced he was departing, Stewart said that his show "doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host, and neither do you.” His hair has greyed. His political charge has become angrier. For years, I've enjoyed laughing at the effort into which he tears and mangles his nightly show's blue cheat sheets, though that particular expression doubles as a wish for containment and frustration. When aching stupidity or the astounding lack of self-awareness exhibited by outspoken members of society from either side of the U.S. political aisle seems to be the only voice the greater public hear, I can understand how Stewart's continuance on the show could become laborious.

So here's to Jon Stewart, for the little things, the unshakeable idiosyncrasies and endearing tics and habits that helped to fill in the formula, to keep the Comedy Central show from turning into a downward spiral on fire. Despite news headlines that feel like we've entered daily into the apocalypse, there's always a flick of a wrist, a stammered sentence or a funny face that felt familiar, and moving.

  • Jon Stewart's flippy, spinny pen
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    As pen-oriented habits go, this is followed-up by his swirly blue sheet scribble.

  • Jon Stewart's Mitch McConnell impression as Cecil Turtle from 'Looney Tunes'
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central
  • Jon Stewart stays standing as guests seat themselves
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    "Please welcome..."
    Slaps desk
    Push back from desk
    Extend the hand shake or hug
    Guide guests to sit down with a pointed hand
    Waits behind desk
    Guest sits

  • Jon Stewart hopelessly in the tank for the Mets
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central
  • Jon Stewart's Jersey Tough Guy bits

    The New York pizza rant was particularly tasty.

    And as long as we're talking pizza, his Donald Trump piece is also magnificent.

  • Meet Me At Camera Three segments
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central


  • Jon Stewart's stupid George W. Bush impression
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    I especially love that villainous stupid cackle.

  • Jon Stewart giggling
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    When Jon Stewart is tickled -- particularly when he's interviewing talent -- he pulls back from his desk with a high-pitched giggle, sometimes accompanied with a hand over his mouth.

  • Jon Stewart's nosey Jewish mother accent
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    Jon Stewart's Jewishness (and Jew-"ish"-ness) has always been a source of comedy for the show, but his prodding Jewish mother accent (or the mafioso voice) also seems to slip in when Jon Stewart is doing an impression of an accent that he's no good at doing.

  • Jon Stewart plays the straight man so correspondents shine
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    Some of his most sincere -- and some of his funniest -- faces are made as Extreme Straight Man Stock Journalist as he reacts to his insane correspondents.

  • Jon Stewart's sincerity stutter

    In (too many) unfortunate circumstances, Jon Stewart has opened his show or included comments or monologues without jokes written into them. For example, in his famous episode after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and (more recently) after the mass shooting at the AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Stewart started the show by admitting to no bits, with heartfelt notes on the incidents. While his true feelings about sad events have been elegantly spoke, he also comes off as achingly sincere. With the kind of televised speaking he gives, his typically professional joke-making sheen gives way to earnest speech: he stutters sometimes on a single word, breaking eye contact, and re-composing himself. There is something refreshing about it, which I will miss.

  • Here it is, your moment of Zen
    Photo Credit: Comedy Central

    It's not just the bit. You can always tell by the way Jon Stewart utters those same words what kind of moment of Zen you're about to have.

After five years as a columnist and editor at Billboard, Katie Hasty joined HitFix in 2009 for music and film reporting out of New York. The Midwest native has worked as a writer, music promoter and in A&R since 1999 and performs with her band Numbers And Letters.