The smooth return of Jon Stewart to the “Daily Show” feels like he never left.

Jon Stewart

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The smooth return of Jon Stewart to the "Daily Show" feels like he never left.

I had two ideas after witnessing Jon Stewart’s victorious comeback to The Daily Show last night.


The greatest late-night satirist returns. Not everyone who loves the show as much as some of its biggest fans might be thrilled to see him back. This is due to the fact that in his first show back as host almost nine years after he departed, Stewart tackled a topic that even his most progressive supporters would find sensitive: the notion that worries about how President Joe Biden’s aging may have affected him aren’t always exaggerated.

 

Jon Stewart 'Daily Show'

During court depositions, the former president was unable to recall basic details like how long he had been married to Marla Maples or whether he had boasted about his impeccable memory. Stewart joked, “It turns out, the leading cause of early onset dementia is being deposed,” after showcasing a montage of Trump’s grown children experiencing similar recall problems. Biden’s likely opponent for the presidency, Donald Trump, also displayed erratic behavior. However, Stewart maintained that supporters should do a better job of demonstrating why the current president is as important and effective as they claim he is, even though some liberals might be sensitive to the idea that drawing comparisons between Biden’s gaffes and Trump’s actions is an unfair “both sides” balancing act.

“It is the responsibility of the candidate to allay fears,” Stewart declared during a 20-minute opening part of last night’s show. “Not the voter’s job not to mention them.”

Returning with ease to the host chair

Stewart returned to hosting the show with ease from the first few moments, cracking jokes in a way that made it seem more like he had gone in recent weeks than in 2015. Trevor Noah, who took over as host when Stewart, left the show more than a year ago, and he brought a confidence that the show really needed. Stewart makes a special comeback, anchoring The Daily Show on Monday nights and acting as executive producer every other evening. This arrangement is reminiscent of one made by Rachel Maddow, another prominent figure in cable television, on MSNBC. He can now avoid the monotony of daily hosting thanks to the new arrangement, which gives the show’s correspondents—beginning with Jordan Klepper, who hosts Tuesday through Thursday—the remainder of the week.

Stewart faced a new challenge last night, even as he eased into familiar rhythms, making fun of the notion that he’s an old guy going back to his old job and drawing attention to worries about two other old guys fighting for their old jobs back. That was reminding everyone why he was such a revered host in the first place. Stewart transformed The Daily Show into a sharp examination of the hypocrisies in politics, the media, and society during his first 16 years as host. Throughout the process, he contributed to the development of a fact-based satirical genre that has taken off on television, influencing shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Seth Meyers, as well as shows like HBO’s Last Week Tonight and CBS’ The Late Show, which have a more political bent.

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However, Stewart has returned to a very different media landscape. Late-night ratings have decreased, and the youthful viewers who formerly drove the genre have shifted to YouTube and TikTok. Though it’s possible that Stewart’s attraction to former Daily Show viewers would boost the show’s ratings on the cable network, the audience he now draws in is probably smaller than it was.

In any case, last night’s broadcast demonstrates that Stewart still possesses the comedic skills and perceptive ideas necessary to carry the show through November’s presidential election. In interviews, he has stated that having a space to “unload thoughts” while the election season heats up was one of the draws of coming back. Stewart will deliver all of that and more, as seen by his debut last night, giving an influential show at a crossroads one more chance to decide out what it wants to do with its future.

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