It’s Time for Jon Stewart to Return to TV

Late Night Talk Show Emmy Race
Courtesy of Comedy Central

Another appearance on 'The Late Show' has us wondering if it's time for Jon Stewart to come back to the job he loves

Hey Jon, you know you can come back, right?

On the Feb. 27 episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” comedian Jon Stewart — former host of “The Daily Show,” and Colbert’s former boss — emerged from underneath Colbert’s desk to talk a little bit about the state of the nation. Stewart’s done this gag before — back in July, during the Republican National Convention, Stewart entered the same way, dressed in a grey t-shirt and looking vaguely wild, talking of “the farm” he’s retreated to. Since leaving “The Daily Show” in 2015, Stewart’s made a carefully scattered number of appearances on “The Late Show,” “Full Frontal,” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

He’s grown out his beard, talks a bit fondly of the animals he’s living with, and eschews the suits-and-neckties that he wore for 16 years as the anchor of Comedy Central’s flagship show. In one of the most contentious and maddening election seasons in recent history, Stewart’s regular voice on media and politics was missed; at the same time, it’s hard to deny the guy a break.

But Monday night’s appearance seemed to be less about appeasing an adoring audience with another intermittent on-camera appearance. More than ever, Stewart seemed to be on “The Late Show” because he desperately misses having a platform. When he emerged out of the tunnel, he was even wearing a dress shirt and tie; Colbert offered him a chair similar to his own, which Stewart then used to try to muscle Colbert out from behind the desk.

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The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Monday, February 27, 2017 with Jon Stewart, Connie Britton; Zoey Deutch; musical performance by Lori McKenna.Photo: Richard Boeth/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Jon Stewart Returns to ‘Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ to Slam Trump’s Relationship With Media

It was all very jovial, of course, as is the relationship between the two comedians — and Stewart, on anyone else’s show, is very careful to not hog the spotlight unless expressly invited to. The comedian is aware of his own popularity, and tries not to detract from the star power of his colleagues.

At the same time, this is the second appearance on “The Late Show” in a month: On Jan. 31, Stewart appeared as a guest, dressed in what he joked were the fashion cues he’d taken from the president. (He wore a dead animal wrapped around his head and a red necktie that appeared to be 10 feet long.) That appearance wasn’t enough, apparently, to get everything he wanted off his chest; for his second appearance he even moved to the more familiar territory of sitting behind the desk with his stack of blue paper, drawing circles with a Sharpie. Colbert, in his characteristic drawl, made a fine point of it. “Jon. You miss it, don’t you?” Stewart responded with a lot of thumping the desk with his fists. “Yes, I miss it!” His commentary in both of his “Late Show” appearances seemed to be making points that he’d refined over and over in his head (he quipped that he’d been talking to “the animals” about his feelings about the Trump presidency, and in return a barn spider and woven a web with the message “PLEASE GET A JOB”).

As his prepared monologue on Monday night indicated, there is some ineffable magic to Stewart’s delivery that is unique and inimitable — whether that is just the way he holds eye contact with the camera as he invites the audience to share his indignation, or the slightly Yiddish inflection he takes on when mocking Trump’s assertion that he’s “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” Stewart predicted that Donald Trump would run for president back in 2012, in an uncanny bit of joking around that ended with him observing a Trump candidacy would be great for his business.

In a way, it kind of was — Stewart’s methodology is the industry standard for a burgeoning number of new comedians and established late-night hosts. Stewart, as New Yorker of a younger generation, is kind of the anti-Trump: Where Trump is all ego and bluster, Stewart is self-effacing to the point of actual disappearance; where Trump harangues his audiences about “fake news,” Stewart is apt to parry with dogged textual analysis. Stewart is a bit more of a statesman than a comedian; Trump is a bit more of a comedian than a politician. “The Daily Show” methodology popularized under Stewart’s leadership seems to be designed precisely for this type of demagogue, this exact threat to democracy, these exact lying liars. But Stewart has recused himself from one of the most tumultuous moments in politics — a moment in which he could provide a unique point-of-view, as he himself seems to think.

So now what?

In 2015, right after he left Comedy Central, Stewart signed a four-year production deal with HBO to produce animated short-form content; more details about the project have trickled out, but the premiere date keeps jumping ahead. The last estimate from Casey Bloys, president of HBO, put it at “February or March” of 2017 — which is to say, right now. Whatever this project is, it hasn’t surfaced yet.

Considering that Stewart created a sub-genre of late-night comedy that has become a staple — and hired or supervised nearly all of the comedians who went on to helm their own shows — Stewart’s hesitance to jump back into the fray makes some sense. Perhaps he’s too much of a big deal to go back to the nuts and bolts of starting up a new daily talk show, even in a different format from “The Daily Show.”

But on the other hand: Audiences love Stewart, and Stewart appears to love getting behind a desk and reading the news, with his own commentary and side-eye punctuating his presentation. On Colbert’s show, he’s clearly having a blast, but that hesitancy is there, too; in his own show, you can imagine Stewart might expand a little, might get comfortable with a bit more insanity. Stewart cited time with his family as one of the major reasons he wanted to leave “The Daily Show.” Why not “The Weekly Show with Jon Stewart,” in some capacity or another? It’s hard to imagine that a weekly show from Stewart, who is very much a unique comedian despite popularizing a certain format, would really detract so much from the great work done by other anchors on other networks.

Of course, there are probably other important considerations to be made for Stewart’s return to television (and who knows, maybe this new HBO project will get a premiere date tomorrow). But given how torn Stewart seems to be about having relinquished his platform, it’s worth stating for the record: Jon, we’d love to have you back. We miss you, and maybe more importantly, you miss us.

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  1. Lorena Walker says:

    I miss you so much.

  2. canofmice says:

    Jon, Please run for president! You know you will win in a landslide! Lets hope HBO is in on the secret prepping of Jon to come out as the next candidate and the short animation (really? that sounds so far fetched for a guy who lives by and for his delivery of commentary on the news) are really a coverup for that preparation.

    I will never run though but FFS we need an antidote for this godforsaken insult to the office of the presidency!

  3. just me says:

    Dear Jon – What silenced you? Don’t ask me to believe “it was time to leave.” As a Jewish woman, stupid I am – that stupid I’m not. The other guys and Samantha are doing great. At the same time, America needs your intelligence and influence and Fearlessness. It will help your blood pressure And the spider will thank you.

  4. I think Jon Steward should have a show that does current news semi-serious and interview other “Late-show-type” hosts!
    Think of him as the “Straight Bill Mahler”
    I mean after the sad Milo Yiannopoulos episodes; here, I can see Bill is brokenhearted, I feel there is room at the table for Jon to come back.

    I simply cannot abide by one being 14 and having a grown man on/in a boy.. Not cool. Leave the children alone!

    But Jon, you have some growth to do before you come back! Reinvent yourself.

  5. jyoffa says:

    He so needs to back and destroy Trump.

  6. dweisman2002 says:

    John Oliver does a weekly show. Jon Stewart should do the same.

  7. SunnyD says:

    Love of America,
    Foe and fear
    Grind away at Arbys
    Give way to
    Good cheer
    Fight! Jon, dont
    Let reverence pass
    A silly fuck
    Takes the United States
    Over by her knees
    In redneck grand
    Shit-fed fever.

  8. ME says:

    The Late, Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert is co-produced by Jon Stewart’s production company Spartina. I think that Jon can make an appearance anytime he wants.

  9. Jennifer Szymczak says:

    Thank you for the article…all news has their own agenda… Mr. Stewart is a statesmsn… his agenda is alternate lies…called the human truth. I miss that terribly.

  10. i miss him and need his magic ability to make m laugh after the most hairpulling of days

  11. Ted Faraone says:

    Great column, Sonia. Stewart is not exactly the Jack Paar of our generation, but he does have a tad of King Lear in him. You either leave or stay. There is no in-between. A weekly talk show is far more difficult to sustain than a strip. And right now all the strip opportunities are filled. I do not see a two-year Arsenio Hall moment for Stewart in syndication. He certainly could get the funding for a PBS strip, but what would that do for him? The platform is not as strong as cable or network. How many people stay up late to watch Tavis Smiley? He is a great interviewer. He is totally on top of his material. But how compelling is his strip? If it had real traction the commercial nets would have picked it up by now.

    • Ahsoka says:

      You are right about Tavis Smiley. He was given a bad time slot. But I think that was done intentionally. Because no one seems to be changing Charlie Rose’s time slot and he is a rude and boring interviewer.

      • Ted Faraone says:

        Not sure about Charlie Rose. I think he talks too much. But once one gets through his verbiage the questions are mostly useful. I used to see Charlie Rose at Elaine’s. I thought that he constructed the show in order for him to get a good table. :-)

  12. Jeff Barge says:

    But has he communicated with the Russian ambassador already? Who picks up the bill?

  13. Mom says:

    He’s an old man with old idea’s and limited comic ability. Paid way to much and who has he helped in the last 3 yrs. Not Chicago youth that for sure!!!

  14. Jon would make a fine US Senator.

  15. TheTruth says:

    Or watch Oliver…since he’s pretty much the british version of Stewart…the other two are poor substitutes.

  16. James says:

    There’s a dozen Stewart’s already on TV spewing the same tired bile. Plus, it’s been a nice break from all the stupid expressions on his withered face.

    • Theo says:

      Was someone forcing you to watch? Otherwise your comment is pathetic. Also, for future reference, apostrophes are for possessives, not plurals.

  17. Anon says:

    Larry Wilmore’s show stayed faithful to Bernie Sanders, so the network cancelled his show. Looking forward to seeing Larry’s untainted voice in his next platform.

  18. Anon says:

    They pull in Jon Stewart to prop up ratings. Jon has always stated in interviews that the thought of returning to do a “Daily Show’ is repulsive. He left at a perfect time to keep his legacy intact. ALL of those that tried to fill the void, spewed Clinton propaganda to help deny Bernie Sanders his/our future. UNFORGIVABLE. I’ve been boycotting all of those betrayer shows for life since the start of their betrayals. #consequences
    I know others were also livid and are boycotting too. We’ve already moved on to YouTube voices who didn’t betray us. Jimmy Dore is my favorite. Do you think Jon could let us cord cutters know through the Jimmy Dore show, when he’ll be making appearances on geriatric-TV again?

  19. Five5tar says:

    Jon Stewart returning to TV…ya, that would be cool…

    Jon Stewart beginning to do more and more strategically placed TV and public appearances,
    starting to come out of the cocoon he has been in for the last 2 years,
    transforming into the truly brilliant politician he has always been,
    eventually announcing he will be running for President of the United States
    Winning the Democratic Nomination.
    Bringing about 2020: TRUMP VS. JON STEWART
    And absolutely murdering Trump in EVERYTHING, intelligence, humanity, politics, common sense, literally tearing Trump apart in the debates exposing him for what we all know he is but doing it in Jon Stewart fashion.
    Winning the 2020 Presidential election and becoming the next President of the United States and immediately restoring sanity, dignity, intelligence, humanity, and regaining Worldwide respect for our great Nation.

    Personally…I think that would be cooler than a return to TV!

    Seriously though…Donald Trump…The Apprentice… is the President of the United States. That really happened. With that in mind, does President Stewart really seem that far fetched? Id say it sounds downright logical!

    • Anon says:

      Great idea, but I prefer Jon be Bernie Sanders’ VP of an Independent, Berniecrat or Green Party.
      I imagine Bernie having us fully trained to pay more attention to politicians and their actions vs rhetoric. We’d be trained to show up to form MASSIVE, NATIONWIDE protests, whenever Bernie asked, just like we we showed up with our $27.
      #BernieJon2020

  20. Jon, remember when you were voted the most trusted news source on TV? Come back, man, we need you again.

  21. Clark Magnuson says:

    Democrats are at their lowest point in 100 years, as America vomits out the poison values of the likes of Stewart.

  22. Tom Minor says:

    Help us Jon Stewart.. You’re our only hope.

  23. Jeff says:

    Nope. Stewart fought the good fight daily for over a decade. The guy has earned his rest. Time to pass the torch. And with Colbert, Noah and Seth, the future of late night commentary is ensured. Stewart earned his gold watch. Let the man rest.

  24. G says:

    If Jon Stewart (and Colbert as “himself”) had still been on – we more than likely would not be in the predicament we are in right now…

  25. Jim says:

    I miss the days when The Daily Show was actually funny, it isn’t any more. Jon Stewart was irreplaceable, the attempt to carry on the show with a replacement was a bad idea. Graduates of the Daily are doing very well out on their own… amongst others… John Oliver is beyond funny on his really well written weekly show… Samantha Bee is perfect in her weekly look at the news… Stephen Colbert has gone on to huge success on late night talk… and of course Steve Carell, say no more.

    Jon has raised a family of late night comedy hosts. Yes, we need (repeat, need) him back on TV. The Daily Show was without equal. It was just the best damn fake news show ever.

  26. Bob Claster says:

    If Jon Stewart hadn’t quit when he did, Bernie Sanders would now be President. Which may turn out to be why he quit when he did.

  27. Alex says:

    If he returns and no one cares…then what?

    • Dunstan says:

      Obviously, you’ve chosen to ignore the extremely positive reaction from audiences when he appears on the other shows mentioned in the article.

      Keep those blinders on, Alex. It will stand you in good stead during the Drumpf regime.

  28. Tal says:

    It’s quite obvious that we need Jon Stewart to counter Trump’s lies and deceptions the extremely funny way only Jon can. Would love to see him back.

  29. Jay says:

    No, he is not funny and needs to go far far away.

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