The parallels have been unimaginable to disregard, so Jon Stewart determined to not ignore them. Each main American political events have been unable to search out new candidates to steer their presidential tickets, resulting in a rematch within the 2024 election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And in a a lot lower-stakes effort to discover a chief for a legacy establishment, Comedy Central has but to determine on a brand new course for “The Daily Show” following the departure of Trevor Noah, regardless of months of public tryouts from visitor hosts together with Sarah Silverman, Roy Wooden Jr., Desus Good and extra. So the community has introduced again Stewart for a weekly look on Monday nights, beginning with this week’s season premiere.
These similarities are misplaced on nobody, least of all Stewart himself. Other than an prolonged runtime and a fast look by former correspondent Jordan Klepper, there was little to announce tonight’s episode as a serious occasion or break from routine. From the monologue to the staged “subject” section to the interview to the Second of Zen, the run of present proceeded as ordinary — or reasonably, because it normally did till 2015, the final time Stewart occupied the chair. The first feeling was not of triumphant return and even nostalgia, however déjà vu. For lengthy stretches, it was as if Stewart had by no means made an abortive attempt at an animated information present for HBO, nor made an Emmy-nominated collection for Apple TV+ till the tech firm flinched at potential controversy. You may nearly consider Stewart had stayed fastened within the seat the place he nonetheless clearly feels comfy, cuing up montages of reports clips and grimacing at political gaffes.
Till, that’s, Stewart used himself for example. For almost 20 minutes, the comic expounded on the absurdity of a rematch between two males who had already been the oldest presidential candidates in American historical past. Then he turned to the digicam. “Have a look at me,” he urged. “Look what time hath wrought.” Regardless of being many years youthful than both Trump or Biden, Stewart might nonetheless acknowledge the plain joke: politicians aren’t the one ones who’ve issues passing the torch.
Stewart additionally outsourced a few of his self-deprecation. “This is identical shit once more!” cried correspondent Dulcé Sloan. “We want one thing apart from the identical present with an older, but acquainted face.” (Dutifully enjoying alongside, Stewart requested: “We’re speaking in regards to the election, proper?”) Klepper stopped by the studio to problem his former boss’s “model of snark and both-sidesism,” channeling a number of the extra substantive critiques of Stewart that emerged throughout his absence. The Apple present sometimes went viral for confrontational interviews, however the place Bush-era Stewart was a soothing supply of exasperated sanity, political comedy throughout the Trump years might really feel like a futile shaking of a fist within the face of a cultural tsunami.
Jokes at Stewart’s expense helped to dispel the preliminary awkwardness, however they don’t resolve the elemental rigidity underlying all the pieces from the election to Bob Iger’s second stint at Disney to Stewart’s personal full-circle second. We’re at a crossroads the place techniques are caught in a loop, working their very own expired playbooks to more and more diminished returns. “The Each day Present” itself runs on a community with more and more little unique programming, owned by a conglomerate frantically trying to find a brand new proprietor as its worth grows progressively smaller. Bringing Stewart again is a momentary shiny spot, however there’s nonetheless one other three days per week of episodes to fill. What are these going to appear to be, and for a way lengthy till a longer-term resolution comes alongside — if it ever does?
Anybody who has dwelling reminiscences of the Warfare on Terror is powerless to withstand Stewart’s specific mix of cynicism and ethical righteousness. But the dearth of pomp and circumstance round his return implies that its meta features grow to be probably the most significant. Stewart might mock Biden’s fraying schools or level out Trump’s infinite shortcomings in his sleep. It’s not the punchlines themselves that assist display the snake-eating-its-tail absurdity of the present information cycle. It’s the person delivering them, and what number of occasions we’ve seen him earlier than.