A Hail Mary to Save ‘The Day by day Present’

Jon Stewart’s return to the present he popularized isn’t a mere nostalgia ploy—it’s a pointy spin on an previous system.

Jon Stewart hosting “The Daily Show” in 2024
Matt Wilson / Comedy Central

For me, the expertise of watching The Day by day Present belongs to a special, bygone period of TV. Both I flipped my cable field over to Comedy Central at 11 p.m. if I occurred to be channel browsing that late or I caught up on my DVR the subsequent day, eagerly fast-forwarding by way of the adverts to get to Jon Stewart’s monologue. In 2024, I don’t even have cable, and I haven’t watched a Comedy Central present in years; my familiarity with The Day by day Present in the course of the Trevor Noah period, which lasted for seven years earlier than internet hosting duties have been handed to a rotation of company, was restricted to catching the occasional clip on-line. However Stewart’s return on Monday evening was greater than a nostalgia ploy—it was an truly humorous piece of broadcast tv, the rarest of throwbacks.

In one thing of a Hail Mary, Comedy Central has introduced Stewart again to host its Monday-night reveals by way of the autumn elections, clearly hoping for a bump in relevance as its model fades within the face of elevated cord-cutting. Although Noah did discover a area of interest for himself as host after a cautious begin—his tone was chipper however laced with the cynicism of a extra worldwide perspective—he correctly departed earlier than the grueling weekly schedule utterly sapped his ardour for the gig. Certainly, that’s partly why Stewart had referred to as it quits in 2015, following a few years of award-winning success. After leaving, Stewart directed a film, hosted an AppleTV+ present referred to as The Downside that centered extra on journalism than on jokes, and began to look out of step with modern-day comedy punditry. The earnestness of his jabs didn’t jibe with the post-satirical age ushered in by Donald Trump’s surreal presidency, during which youthful, left-leaning audiences have gravitated towards extra caustic humor.

Nonetheless, I absolutely understood the attraction of a reboot for each Stewart and Comedy Central. Regardless of some protestation in any other case, The Day by day Present’s model by no means actually escaped Stewart, and its format appeared incapable of real change—it’ll at all times have a monologue, a comedy piece with a correspondent, and a visitor interview, because it has for the reason that Craig Kilborn days. The community has by no means found out a really perfect streaming setup for its reveals, both—episodes repeat on Paramount+, which has but to succeed in the recognition of Netflix or Disney+. Stewart’s return is finally most fascinating from a meta perspective: Can he recapture the sensation of his broadcast-hosting work of yesteryear? If not, what’s going to his new on-screen persona be in a media age that’s much more antagonistic and splintered than the Bush/Obama years throughout which he made his status?

The reply, at the least from his efficiency final evening, is surprisingly refreshing. Stewart’s grumpy and quizzical type on The Downside, fueled by sharp questioning and a noticeable lack of humor, was nowhere to be seen. Because the Day by day Present opening credit rolled and the digital camera swooshed across the cheering viewers, a visibly extra wizened Stewart did the standard desk routine he’d carried out for 16 years as host: He scribbled madly on his notes, regarded up on the digital camera, after which launched into an impish however incisive monologue on the week’s information.

His targets have been acquainted: Joe Biden, ripped within the headlines and in a current Division of Justice report for his age and failing to beat that critique in a creaky press convention, and Trump, who Stewart dutifully (however gleefully) identified has had loads of his personal reminiscence lapses on digital camera through the years. The format was the identical previous Day by day Present, with Stewart supplying context over cut-up cable-news clips earlier than shelling out an extended ramble in regards to the necessity of investigating Biden’s weaknesses as a candidate that felt neither mean-spirited nor softball. In brief, he didn’t miss a lot of a step, and the bouncy character he appeared to have deserted after his preliminary departure instantly rejoined him behind that desk.

Will that return to type matter a lot on this media panorama? The easy truth is that The Day by day Present hasn’t been appointment tv for some time, and in summoning previous glories moderately than trying to forge one thing new, its viewership will in all probability stray farther from the youthful demographic all cable networks crave. However there additionally aren’t numerous pundits providing what Stewart is placing on the desk. Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert each present loads of political commentary—Meyers usually fleshes out points in a Stewart-ian method along with his “Nearer Look” segments—however they’re each nonetheless main with punch traces about bread-and-butter matters. Maybe Stewart’s tendency towards a direct handle will really feel slightly more energizing in 2024. And, because the election approaches, his bluntness could higher acclimate voters—at the least those who’re listening to him—to the looming stakes.

Or possibly the nostalgia will put on off rapidly, his former viewers will proceed dissolving, and Stewart’s desk bits will probably be consigned to the huge swirl of YouTube clips, TikToks, and different chopped-up comedy segments that floats across the social web. The influential thinky comedian who might host a large rally in Washington, D.C., calling for sanity could by no means regain the form of sway he wielded again within the day. However Stewart’s return had slightly extra instant juice than I might need predicted. Positive, the discourse is extra fractured than ever, however he at the least has a shot at refocusing our consideration.

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