Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart/ photo from Comedy Central
 

Jon Stewart's hair isn't the only thing that's turned gray over time.

The final episode of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" Thursday served, in many ways, as a satisfying send-off for a highly influential political comedian to a certain demographic --  middle-aged, liberal-leaning viewers who think BIll O'Reilly should be sentenced to spend four years behind the bars of a carnival dunk tank.

But to a generation sporting diapers when Stewart took over a little over 16 years ago, the hour-plus celebration provided few excuses to look up from their cell phones.

I ended up watching the event at a week-long journalism camp consisting of savvy, curious teenagers from across the country who are more familiar with the members of the Supreme Court than the members of One Direction.

But those who sat through the hour-plus broadcast in a University of Minnesota lounge, tempting the limits of a harsh curfew, the evening's cavalcade of past correspondents -- Ed Helms, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Olivia Munn -- and the "Goodfellas"-inspired dedication to the behind-the-scenes staff was the equivalent of a long list of credits at the end of a foreign-language movie, rolling across the screen to the music of Yanni.

This aging viewer's heart broke just a little when the previously unannounced appearance of Bruce Springsteen and a full lineup of the E Street Band failed to elicit a reaction anything close to the uncontrollable "yippy!" that yours truly let out. (The public school system, apparently, doesn't think being familiar with "Born to Run" is as important as reading "To Kill a Mockingbird." Shame, shame, shame.)

Perhaps surprisingly, the astute students were most interested in Stewart's last rant against bureaucratic manure, a timeless commentary that asked viewers to rally against the day-to-day stupidity that dominates politics.

"If you smell something, say something," said Stewart, who remained composed throughout the night, with the exception of a Stephen Colbert tribute that seemingly caught his former boss by surprise.

The rest of the time, my new friends were still buzzing about the night's standout comedy act: The Unfettered Musings of Donald "Chuckles" Trump, a near-brilliant routine that was all too often interrupted by something resembling a debate.

Perhaps Stewart would have earned more of their attention if he had followed through on his early threat to forego the usual goodbye rituals and turn over the entire program to a post-debate breakdown.

But Wednesday's show was all about those of us who think Stewart's discovery of John Oliver is right up there with Christopher Columbus stumbling into America, that a "Daily Show" Moment of Zen offers more serenity than a weekend retreat with the Dalai Lama, and that the show's set belongs in the Smithsonian, not the Newseum, its actual destination.

You can scold the younger generation for not respecting its elders, but first ask yourself how much time you've spent scrolling YouTube for clips of Mort Sahl riffing off the daily newspaper or whether or not you kept your parents' Rich Little albums.

Yes, some of us have gotten that old.

At 52, Stewart most likely has a rich future in entertainment, perhaps even to those who have yet to get to college. But Stewart would probably be the first to tell you that the next generation needs a new figure to rally around (or against).

Will that honor go to replacement Trevor Noah? Umm, maybe, although hardly anyone in my half-packed lounge recognized him when he made his obligatory cameo Thursday.

That responsibility lies 100 percent with the youth who don't want to be told who to worship.

I for one can't wait to see who they anoint. Heck, I may even check him or her out every once in a while.

As long as the rants aren't past my bedtime.