Jon Stewart paid a surprise visit to "The Nightly Show" Thursday to ask Larry Wilmore a question: "What did you do, piss off Peter Thiel? Does his revenge know no bounds?"
The former "Daily Show" host, who was an executive producer of "The Nightly Show" and helped give Wilmore his start, stopped by the show, not just to joke about Peter Thiel, but to pay tribute to what Wilmore had accomplished in a year and a half on Comedy Central. On Monday, the cable network announced that "The Nightly Show" had been canceled and that Thursday's episode would be the show's last. Stewart's message to Wilmore was simple: the show was a success.
"I have been in situations, in what we call television, where my name has been on the show and they have locked the door and told me, ‘Get your sh-t and get out,'" Stewart told a clearly emotional Wilmore. "And a very wise man said to me, ‘Do not confuse cancelation with failure.’ And I took that to heart" — that wise man was David Letterman, as Stewart has previously recounted.
Stewart defended Wilmore's legacy, rejecting the idea that Wilmore's show "did not resonate with an audience," a reference to Comedy Central's statement upon announcing the cancelation. The comedian instead insisted that Wilmore had struck a chord with an audience still underrepresented on television and did so with a diverse cast of comedians who will go on to future successes.
"You gave voice to under-served voices in the media arena. It was a show that was raw, and poignant, and funny, and smart, and all those things. And you did it from scratch," Stewart continued. "You started a conversation that was not on television when you began. And you worked with a group of people you invited to that conversation to collaborate with you, to sharpen that conversation. And what you don’t realize is that you walk out of this room, and that conversation doesn’t end. That’s beautiful thing."
Stewart concluded with a call back to Wilmore's controversial use of the N-word with President Barack Obama at the 2016 White House Correspondent's Dinner in April.
"I want to say to you, this: You did it my…," Stewart began.
"No you can’t say that word!" Wilmore interrupted.
"…my mishpocheh," Stewart finished.
As for Wilmore, he saved his heartfelt speech for the show's final moments, thanking his staff, cast, crew and even Stewart before reiterating his show's mission.
"Before each show I have a Q&A with the audience and the number one question I always get is, 'Why is your map upside down'? And I always say, 'I disagree with your premise,'" Wilmore said. "Upside down is just an opinion. If you are floating in space the world can take on any orientation and culturally we have decided to see the world in one way. At "The Nightly Show" our chief mission was to disagree with that premise and to see the world in a way that may not make everybody uncomfortable and to present with a cast of people who don't always get to have a voice. On that front I feel we've been very successful."
Wilmore had just one more thing to say.
"I gotta keep it 100," Wilmore said. "I'm not done yet."