Jon Stewart modified late-night comedy as soon as. Can he have a second act in numerous occasions?

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By Calvin S. Nelson

NEW YORK — As host of “The Each day Present” from 1999 to 2015, Jon Stewart modified comedy — and arguably journalism, too — with sharp, satirical takes on politics and present occasions. He turned an important a part of the nation’s dialog.

Now let’s examine if he can flip again time.

Stewart, who walked away from “The Each day Present” to a lot fanfare, returns to his outdated perch Monday night time. He is agreed to host every Monday by way of the election, and to govt produce the weeknight present for Comedy Central into subsequent 12 months to assist it by way of one other transition.

Comebacks are arduous sufficient in an business that does not all the time reward second acts. Catching lightning once more can be tough — significantly at a time when late-night tv is drastically diminished as a cultural pressure and others, some from Stewart’s household tree, at the moment are opponents.

It may be even more durable when, as Salon critic Melanie McFarland put it, the present Jon Stewart is pressured to compete with reminiscences of the outdated Jon Stewart.

“The world has modified,” says veteran tv govt Doug Herzog, who employed Stewart and his successor, Trevor Noah, for Comedy Central. “The media surroundings has modified. The enterprise has modified. It is simply so totally different. I am going to by no means converse for Jon, however he is all the time been about going ahead, he isn’t about shifting backwards. And that is what I might count on him to do.”

Let’s pay homage to what Stewart achieved when he hit his stride within the early 2000s.

Political humor had largely consisted of tame one-liners earlier than Stewart and his workforce of mock “correspondents” — individuals you have come to know nicely like Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert — dove into the information of the day. He uncovered double-talk, identified hypocrisy and will draw laughter with a wide-eyed look of incredulousness or concern.

Research discovered “The Each day Present” was a key information supply for a lot of younger People. Stewart’s comedy focused journalists, too. CNN cancelled its political debate present “Crossfire” after Stewart skewered a then-bowtied Tucker Carlson. “The Each day Present” could not have pioneered using previous video to show some extent, but it surely definitely reminded journalists of its effectiveness.

“Jon Stewart completely modified the face of late-night,” says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Middle for Tv and Fashionable Tradition at Syracuse College. And the tv govt who lured Stewart again, Chris McCarthy, referred to as him “the voice of our era.”

Stewart hasn’t been speaking about it publicly, though he did provide a joke — what else? — on social media. “After a lot reflection I’ve determined to enter the switch portal for my final 12 months of eligibility,” he stated on X, previously Twitter.

He ended his earlier internet hosting stint on Aug. 6, 2015, exactly as Trump emerged as a pressure in presidential politics. A few of Stewart’s followers have been sorely dissatisfied that he was not there to supply his nightly tackle the Trump presidency. Maybe the prospect to supply his voice throughout one other Trump marketing campaign proved irresistible.

Powerful political humor did not depart with Stewart and has even thrived. Colbert makes Donald Trump a nightly punching bag on CBS. John Oliver, an alumni of “The Each day Present,” has an award-winning, issue-oriented present on HBO. One other “Each day” vet, Samantha Bee, held forth on TBS from 2016 to 2022. Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers are tartly topical, and Greg Gutfeld seeks laughs from a conservative perspective on Fox Information Channel.

So Stewart will return to a crowded area of comics trying to mine a lot of the identical materials.

His appearances on Mondays — the identical nights that Rachel Maddow does her once-a-week present on MSNBC — provide liberals a tv assassin’s row.

It is a extra critical Stewart that followers have gotten to know since he left, each by way of his activism on behalf of rescue employees from Sept. 11, 2001, and his short-lived present on the Apple TV+ streaming service, “The Downside with Jon Stewart.” It is official to ask whether or not his comedy will be capable to get rolling once more after a nine-year absence, on the air simply as soon as per week, and if he can assemble a workers of writers nearly as good as he as soon as had.

Briefly, can this devoted Mets fan nonetheless throw the fastball?

Fashionable tradition is affected by stars who tried to return again however may by no means recapture the magic — Arsenio Corridor, Lucille Ball and Roseanne Barr are examples simply from comedy. Identify a musical act that reformed and considerably added to its legacy.

Typically it had little to do with expertise. The second had merely handed, and Thompson worries that the identical could be true now.

“There’s one thing so 2010 about Jon Stewart now,” he says.

Late-night comedy has far much less of an imprint on the tradition now than it did when People turned off the bed room gentle after listening to Johnny Carson’s monologue, and even when Stewart went away.

Somewhat than keep up late, many People now go browsing to the Web the subsequent morning to catch late-night highlights, the most effective jokes. Individuals who do keep up, younger individuals specifically, are as apt to get misplaced on TikTok, play a online game or select a present to stream.

“Individuals do not discuss late-night anymore,” Herzog stated. “Night time in and night time out, it would not play the identical cultural position. We do not keep as much as watch Johnny Carson anymore, Cher on David Letterman, no matter it was. I do not really feel prefer it’s there anymore. It is fragmented and shrunk, similar to all the pieces else.”

Through the 2014-15 season, “The Each day Present,” Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight,” Kimmel and Letterman in his final 12 months at CBS collectively averaged 10.5 million viewers, in response to the Nielsen firm. The identical 4 exhibits — Colbert now rather than Letterman — have 4.8 million viewers now. The exhibits took in $859 million in advert income in 2015. By means of final November, the 2023 tally was $259 million, the advert intelligence supplier Vivvix stated.

Separate out “The Each day Present,” and the decline is far sharper. Stewart had greater than 1.3 million viewers in his final season; Trevor Noah was all the way down to 372,000 in 2022 and people numbers certainly dropped final 12 months with the botched effort to discover a successor. Throughout Stewart’s final full 12 months in 2014, “The Each day Present” earned an estimated $129 million in promoting income. Final 12 months it was all the way down to $19 million by way of November, per Vivvix.

Dominated for years by white males, the format has grown stale, Salon’s McFarland says.

“I do not suppose the late-night scene goes to go away fully,” she says. “However it must remake itself.”

Older viewers (not less than, those that can keep up) will certainly be curious to see if Stewart nonetheless has it. The identical won’t be true for youthful individuals who know Stewart by status solely. And is the 61-year-old the correct particular person to pinpoint one other era of expertise?

“Jon’s acquired a approach of seizing the second,” Herzog says. “All the things has modified. We’re not going again in time, however I do have the arrogance that Jon will discover a approach ahead. Jon is nice that approach.”

We’ll see. No strain.


David Bauder covers media for The Related Press. Comply with him at

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