Review: Jon Stewart’s Triumphant Return to THE DAILY SHOW

Jon Stewart Daily Show
Image via Comedy Central

One of the long-standing sources for political satire, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, has been on something of an uneven keel lately. Ever since then-current host Trevor Noah departed in 2022, the show’s anchor desk has been occupied by a rotating cadre of guest hosts whom all did did good jobs in the position, but gave the show a somewhat shifting comedic point-of-view. The near-hiring of and then backing-away from former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj hinted at a network management seemingly at a loss as to how to continue one of their keystone franchises. That is until they hit upon a solution, bring back – at least for one night a week – the comic voice that molded The Daily Show into that crown jewel, Jon Stewart. And if Stewart’s re-debut as host last evening is any indication, it was a solid decision that helps the show look forward, instead of being a step backward.

“Now, where was I?” Stewart started off his return episode last night to a cheering studio audience. “I’m excited to be back.” As to why he was back, Stewart downplayed things slightly, saying “We have so much to talk about.”

“Maybe we’ll talk about China. Maybe we’ll talk about AI…” he continued, eluding to the reasons why his Apple TV+ series The Problem With Jon Stewart was cancelled by the streamer last fall.

Right from the start, Stewart was so on his game that it felt more like he had been out for a nine day vacation, not a nine year leave of absence. His opening segment, which ran a solid twenty minutes instead of the usual ten minutes, looked at the ages of both of the presumptive nominees in the upcoming presidential election – Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Starting off with the recent accusations about President Biden’s memory, he pivots to video of Trump’s own alleged cognitive issues on display from pre-indictment video depositions. The video montage was followed by clips of Trump’s children also not remembering things in their own depositions, even when confronted with documents that they purportedly signed. On the surface, it could be seen as a bit of “both sides”-erism, and those accusations immediately flew on social media before the show even ran its closing credits. But the deeper message here was that while we as a country should have better choices altogether. But as we are stuck with these two, maybe let’s not go with the one who may be lying under oath and who thinks that losing the election would lead to the changing of the name of Pennsylvania.

The middle segment of the show featured Stewart reintroducing the current cadre of Daily Show correspondents – Desi Lydic, Michael Kosta, Dulce Sloan and Ronny Chieng – in a spoof remote of the four all reporting on voter trends from the same diner in Michigan. As far as satirical targets go, the media’s seeming obsession for reporting from restaurants in various suburban and rural locations around the country is a fairly soft target, and one that The Daily Show has put in its sights previously over the years. But the segment bulls-eyed its target easily and even manages to get a bit self-referential at the end with Sloan’s comment about “We need a more than just the same show with an older, yet familiar, face.” Longtime correspondent Jordan Klepper made an appearance at the desk to first mock criticize Stewart’s return, only to do a quick about-face once Stewart mentions that Klepper will be the host for the rest of this week’s worth of shows. The show’s interview with writer Zanny Minton Beddoes highlighted Stewart’s interviewing skills, something that tend to get overshadowed.

Of course, one show does not a triumphant return make. The political landscape has certainly changed over the last decade and things are somewhat different now then when Stewart left the show in August 2015 ahead of what would be the Clinton-Trump presidential race and perhaps going forward we will see him start to adjust to that. Some of the jokes last night may have felt similar; social media’s appetite for instantaneous hot takes will mean that some gibes may already be hours old by the time they make it to air here or on any other late night comedy offering. But this was certainly the Jon Stewart of old. The rhythm of his delivery, his scribbling on his script, dipping into his stock Jerry Lewis impersonation for a joke, the sudden rise in outrage only to slam his voice back down to a more conversational level and more were all on display, a rather welcome comedic blanket for these assuredly chaotic times.

Avatar für Rich Drees
About Rich Drees 7193 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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