After The daily show spent more than 12 months unable to find a host to replace Trevor Noah in time to cover a presidential election in which neither major party was able to find candidates to replace Joe Biden or Donald Trump, the Comedy Central series has launched a campaign for new episodes with a new part-time interim host… Jon Stewart.
Whether you find Stewart's return an act of triumph or a sign of desperation — he'll be doing Monday night shows through the November election — the venerable entertainer has slipped into the hospitality chair like no time had passed since his departure in August 2015.
This didn't exactly look like Jon Stewart doing a Jon Stewart impression. But it really felt like Jon Stewart doing a Jon-Stewart-as-host-of-The-Daily-Show impression — an indiscriminate difference unless you watched Stewart's short-lived show on Apple TV+ or attended one of his various talk show appearances in the years since.
There was Jon Stewart trying to indicate that he was an evolving figure as he struggled to find the right voice to carry the revised format. The problem with Jon Stewart – that was actually the problem with The problem with Jon Stewart – and Jon Stewart who periodically came to chat with friends like Stephen Colbert. That Jon Stewart was differently and more clearly angry in some cases, and more relaxed and laid back in others. But he was not equipped with the weight and expectations of his Daily show chair, suit and red tie. Perhaps because he has never settled into a single Jon Stewart identity over the past eight years, there have been no wild deviations or regressions to be seen.
He just sat in the chair and did his thing.
“Why am I back, you may be wondering. This is a very reasonable question. I have committed a lot of crimes. From what I understand, talk show hosts get immunity. It doesn’t make much sense, but discuss it with the founders,” he observed.
He scribbled his notes while the audience roared. » He shouted at the camera in mock exasperation. He dug into his bag of familiar vocals, including touches of Borscht Belt Jewish imitation and obligatory nods to Jerry Lewis. If there was anything that distinguished the show's 20-minute opening from what Trevor Noah would have done, it would be those grace notes.
As for the text of the monologue itself, it was not significantly different from a monologue of Noah. One of my least favorite stories in the comments section after Noah announced his departure was that Noah was a liberal ideologue who had lost viewers accustomed to Stewart's more even-handed approach. This is ridiculous, of course. You may prefer Stewart's general air to Noah's, prefer his punchlines and cadences, welcome the return of Stewart's greater comic intensity to Noah's deceptively sing-song joviality. It's a preference, and that's what love comedy is all about. But on the political spectrum, they weren't much different.
Stewart's first Daily show monologue was, rightly and somewhat clumsily, about the fact that we have two very old candidates for president and you can't castigate Biden's mistakes and inconsistency without acknowledging Trump's mistakes and inconsistency and vice versa. While he may have used Friday's special counsel report on Biden's mishandling of documents as a hook, it was a sort of “How did we get here?” » diatribe of disbelief that comics have been doing for months (or years). And, in its details, it was the same speech of disbelief launched by countless amateur and professional pundits throughout the weekend on Formerly Twitter and Bluesky and I suspect on Threads and Hive and Post and Mastodon and Flurffle.
It's a problem that tormented Noah Daily show also, of course. For all the apparent youth of Noah and his team's approach, he seemed to constantly be chasing the same punchlines that had gone viral several hours earlier, instead of being the source of the viral punchlines like Stewart once was in a slower evolving social. the media age. It's possible that Stewart made a mistake in opting for Monday as his once-a-week TV show; Even if Monday's show sets the tone for the week, it has the drawback of following up on several days of already chopped up and rehashed news. It will only get worse when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is back, airing the day before Stewart.
But not everyone is on social media all the time and not everyone watches Oliver or other late-night shows. So if you haven't had a chance to compare Biden's forgetfulness to a montage of various Trumps listing the things they don't remember in their depositions, this was all brand new to you.
And although it wasn't new, it was comforting. Should a man once considered the most important voice of the evening and a key figure in comedy news be content to “comfort”? Raise your shoulders.
There were some songs with a bit of bite, of course.
Stewart ridiculed Biden for calling Israel's actions in Gaza “over-the-top” saying, “I love how Biden describes Israel's incessant bombing of civilians the same way my mom talks about the show of the Super Bowl halftime show. 'Hey. It was a little too much. Did they need to be on roller skates?'
And there was well-placed anger, like his response to Kari Lake insisting Trump wasn't an old man with: “He's an old man.” He is objectively an old man! On a human scale. Trump is objectively old. If he were a turtle, I would say to him, like a turtle at 77, “Oh, young man, go and enjoy college.” But it's not a turtle. It's not a turtle.
Stewart showed he was aware of his own precarious position by commenting on a situation that he wanted to emphasize was “focused on the human lifespan” and not “ageist.” At 61, Stewart pulled the camera closer and announced, “Look at me. Look at the time that has passed.
One thing that hasn't been addressed by showing a photo of himself 20 years younger is that the discussion about Trump and Biden hasn't really been about the fact that they look old. Essentially saying “Look, I'm not necessarily one to talk because my hair is whiter than it used to be” is not the same as “Is my voice as high-pitched as it was ago 20 years ? something Stewart had no interest in discussing. And maybe he doesn't need it. Aside from the main characters, this was basically indistinguishable from the kind of monologue Stewart would have delivered in the Obama era. But the Obama era was kinder and gentler, and this might be an opportunity to bring a knife to a shootout — even if the knife in question is, rightly, appreciated.
The host and writers actually saved the sharper Stewart-led barbs for the show's deep pool of correspondents in the episode's second segment. Stewart announced the expiration Daily show audience to “the best fucking news team around,” including Desi Lydic and Michael Kosta interviewing Democratic and Republican voters from opposite sides of the same restaurant, before kicking Dulcé Sloan in the parking lot while lamenting that this whole election is just a “reboot”.
“I mean, they already had this job. Now these old white guys have to come back and get it,” she said. “Like…Let’s let someone else run the show,” she said as Stewart played as if making an intricate connection.
Not bad. And in the studio, Jordan Klepper showed up to ask, “Have you ever saved democracy, with your '90s sarcastic, two-faced side?” Little ouch!
Klepper was appeased by the promise that he would host the show for the rest of the week and enthusiastically expressed his desire to “change the world” with Stewart.
Stewart closed out his comeback with a fairly substantial, if predictable, interview with Zanny Minton Beddoes of The Economist, leading the conversation back to the topic of Biden's age and Trump's threat to civilization, with further insinuations about Stewart's age as well. Chat worked better if you consider The EconomistThis is not a moderate post with a voice of reason. I'll… leave it up to each viewer to decide.
Listen, it's Monday The daily show absolutely answered the question: “What would you expect from a Jon Stewart version of The daily show what will it look like in 2024? It looked and sounded familiar and it looked and sounded perfect for this vaguely retrospective aspiration. It wasn't exciting, but I'll be quite happy to continue watching this version of the series, knowing that after regaining his footing so quickly, Stewart might be ready to push his own limits next week or month. Or maybe not.
The show's producers had 12 months to find an innovative and exciting new host who could take the show forward. It's not that. But at first, at least, it's a pretty entertaining waiting pattern.
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