Jon Stewart’s return to The Daily Show demanded a supersized premiere episode, and Comedy Central gave the prodigal TV personality a full 51 minutes to jump back into the basic cable fray on Monday night.
We also learned that Jordan Klepper, the only correspondent to have worked with Stewart under his previous TDS tenure, will get first dibs at hosting the show for the rest of this week, Tuesday-Thursday.
But not before Klepper and Dulcé Sloan both skewered Stewart for coming back to reclaim his old job.
And not before Stewart spent the first 20 minutes uninterrupted tearing into Joe Biden and Donald Trump for both being too old and unfit for the job of President of the United States. That’s despite Stewart spending his Monday morning with CBS Mornings promoting his return, in part, by claiming: “But as far as influence, and you guys know from doing this, just about everything I had wanted to happen over the 16 years that I was at The Daily Show did not happen, if you were hoping for influence. And I think I’ve learned that post-Daily Show … I don’t really view it as, ‘I really want to have an influence on this issue, this election,’ things like that.”
Noting we still have nine months to Election Day and already fatigued by a Biden-Trump rematch, Stewart tried out four different taglines to kickoff his anchoring of “Indecision 2024”:
- American DeMOCKracy
- Electile Dysfunction
- What the F#@K are we doing?
- Antiques Roadshow
His first episode back found him hammering both Biden and Trump for their poor memory and judgment. He first zagged with a misdirect into clips of Trump and his children in videotaped depositions unable to answer basic questions (something the DOJ’s special counsel claimed last week that Biden couldn’t do), declaring “that’s the high-functioning candidate from nine years ago unable to recall if he has a good memory.” But then Stewart also took the incumbent president to task for not quitting while Biden was ahead in his press conference to angrily prove he hadn’t lost a step, and instead “politically speaking lost three to four steps.”
Stewart implored Biden’s administration to come forward with visual proof that the president is as sharp and strong as they claim he is, bemoaning the fact that Biden’s team instead took to TikTok: “That would be good to show to people instead of a TikTok where he goes, chocolate chip cookie. You say he’s in charge. We see ‘I like cookies!’” Stewart tagged the snack reference by suggesting the only thing left for Biden and Trump is “a TODAY show Smuckers shout-out” for when they hit 100 years old.
“I didn’t want to have to do this on my first day,” Stewart then claimed, asking the cameraperson to zoom in on his face and reminding us that he’s “20 years younger than these motherf—ers” and just then reminded us just how much he has aged since he took TDS to new heights in the early 2000s.
Why does Stewart care so much about Biden’s age? Because he says: “If barbarians are at the gates…you want Conan standing on the ramparts, not chocolate chip cookie time.”
And yet Stewart also claimed that his time away from Comedy Central taught him that America would not be doomed no matter who wins the 2024 presidential election, because he claims the many thousands of federal government employees will keep plugging away at their jobs. He said he recognized his views could be seen as “glib at best and probably dismissive at worst about this,” but added that as much as Tuesday, Nov. 5, matters: “I’m saying you have to worry about every day before it and every day after, forever.”
Seemed bleak, right?!?
The funny part of the show came during the B block, when Stewart introduced himself to all of the existing correspondents who had joined The Daily Show with Trevor Noah after Stewart left in 2015. Desi Lydic, Michael Kosta, Sloan and Ronny Chieng all checked in with reports from the same makeshift Michigan diner, mocking the mainstream media’s obsession with visiting diners in an ongoing attempt to find out what “real Americans” think.
Sloan got in the best zingers at Stewart’s expense, by comparing his reboot to Biden v. Trump. “It’s what everybody thinks: This is the same shit all over again. It’s just a reboot! We need more than just the same show with an older yet familiar face.”
“Why so desperate?” she added. “Like, let someone else run the show!”
Stewart asked: “You’re talking abbot the election right?”
“I said what I said,” Sloan replied.
Then Ronny Chieng, coughing up a mouth full of undercooked potato skins, forced Lydic to pull a T-shirt up to cover her face while she broke into giggles.
But Klepper had the upper hand in a sparring match with his old boss and new boss sitting next to him at the anchor desk. “I didn’t see you there. You must’ve snuck up,” Stewart said before zinging Klepper: “Shouldn’t you be out somewhere talking to insurrectionists in a parking lot?”
Klepper bit back: “Did you save democracy yet? With your 90s brand of snark and both-siderism?” He accused Stewart of “brainwashing voters” into accepting the status-quo when he could’ve been rallying them to protest in the streets, and Stewart looked sheepish, until he reminded Klepper that he gets to host the show the rest of this week, prompting a big smile and epic flip. “It’s great having you back, buddy!” Klepper told Stewart. “What we’re doing here is important!”
Stewart’s comeback premiere could’ve stopped there.
But he kept going instead with a full interview segment with guest Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist. Why feature her Monday night? Perhaps because Stewart only gets one night a week this go-around, so he invited Minton Beddoes to double down on the age issue with Biden and Trump. They also touched on recent headlines such as Trump suggesting Vladimir Putin could attack any NATO nations in Europe without worrying about American interference.
And for his first Moment of Zen since 2015, Stewart introduced a clip from a recent Trump rally in which the Donald complained about the way commercial airlines treat passengers these days (something Trump would have absolutely zero firsthand experience with himself).