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Stephen Colbert’s Thank You to Jon Stewart Shows The Difference a Great Boss Can Make

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Mark J. Terrill/AP file photo

Well, that’s it. Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is no more. The Comedy Central political satire show will soon be handed over to up-and-comer comedian Trevor Noah, and Stewart will presumably take some well-deserved time off before figuring out what, if anything, he wants to do next.

But Stewart’s presence will still be felt for years to come as he leaves behind a legacy of disciples that includes plenty of now-famous comedians like Steve Carrell, Ed Helms, John Oliver, and, of course, Stephen Colbert—nearly all of whom returned to the show last week to say “thank you” to Stewart for teaching them much of what they know about their craft.

After delving into a lengthy, amusingly convoluted analogy in which Colbert was Sam, and Stewart was Frodo from The Lord of the Rings (a noted obsession of Colbert’s), the one-time Daily Show correspondent and soon-to-be host of Late Show on CBS gave his former boss an unscripted, awfully sincere “thank you” on behalf of all of Stewart’s employees.

“You said to me and to many other people here years ago never to thank you because we owe you nothing,” Colbert said. “It is one of the few times I’ve known you to be dead wrong.”

Stewart, who didn’t seem to expect the speech, looked uncomfortable reaping the praise, and started to cry about halfway in:

“We owe you because we learned from you. We learned from you, by example, how to do a show with intention, how to work with clarity, how to treat people with respect… you were infuriatingly good at your job.”

We know how important having a good boss like Stewart is because most of us have had the experience of working for a terrible one. In the US, at least, roughly half of workers have left a job at one point in their lives because they hated their boss. The key to being a good boss, the experts said, was engagement—communicating reliably and meaningfully to your underlings, and building up their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses.

Judging by Colbert’s words and the massive group hug that followed them, Stewart did just those things. Even Wyatt Cenac—the former correspondent who seemingly burned bridges with Stewart after he called out his old boss for a heated disagreement over covering racial issues—returned to the show on its final night.

What went on behind the scenes to squash the beef is unknown, but we do know that Cenac was part of that final hug.

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