Jon Stewart is back at The Daily Show. After a yearlong search for Trevor Noah’s replacement, the longtime host and Noah’s predecessor has agreed to return on Monday nights through the 2024 election.
The new setup, a major coup for the show and for parent company Paramount, is set to begin Feb. 12. For the remainder of the week, the Comedy Central series will rely on a team of correspondents, which are likely to include Jordan Klepper, Desi Lydic, Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta and Dulcé Sloan. Stewart, who spent 16 years at the show, the majority of them Emmy-winning, will be heavily involved as an executive producer on the other nights as well. The move comes after Stewart prematurely exited his Apple TV+ show, The Problem, following creative differences between the iPhone maker and its host over potential topics and guests.
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“Jon Stewart is the voice of our generation, and we are honored to have him return to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show to help us all make sense of the insanity and division roiling the country as we enter the election season,” said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios. “In our age of staggering hypocrisy and performative politics, Jon is the perfect person to puncture the empty rhetoric and provide much-needed clarity with his brilliant wit.”
Stewart added on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Friends. After much reflection I have decided to enter the transfer portal for my last year of eligibility. Excited for the future! 5’7” ish 165 14.8 second 40 #Blessed #NILBABY #TDSnation #LFGM”
Allowing him to return for just one night a week — and notably, at the top of the week to set the agenda — likely made it considerably more appealing to Stewart, who was vocal about his level of exhaustion by the end of his initial run. And unlike his more earnest Apple show, which was conceived as a current affairs series that tackles a single issue, or “problem,” every episode, the Daily Show platform allows him to be more topical and, thus, more relevant, particularly as the election cycle heats up. In his new incarnation, Stewart is also expected to be actively involved in shaping new talent for the show, as he’d done for many years before. In fact, he’s largely responsible for launching the careers of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Michael Che, Samantha Bee and Noah, among others.
To be sure, decision-makers at Paramount never anticipated being in a position to bring Stewart back. But Noah announced abruptly in late September 2022 that he’d be exiting the series, leaving those responsible for The Daily Show little time to come up with a long-term game plan. It wasn’t even clear how appealing the role might be. Seven years earlier, when Stewart left the first time, the show had tried and failed to recruit big names like Amy Schumer and Chris Rock, which is how it wound its way to Noah, then virtually unknown in the U.S. (At that time, the show wasn’t as interested in experimenting with short-term hosts, which Rock told THR he had been down to do.) But, as several reps have since noted, even with diminished viewership and ad dollars in decline, The Daily Show is still a significant platform, and there aren’t many of those left.
So, when Noah formally signed off that December, the company announced it would cycle through celebrity guest hosts beginning in January 2023. McCarthy consulted with Stewart and his manager James “Babydoll” Dixon, who will also be back as an EP, during that period as well. By March, Paramount execs were thrilled with how successful the guest rotation had been. That also kept costs down at a time when late night, specifically, and the industry, more broadly, were taking a major hit, was a nice bonus. In an interview with THR at the time, McCarthy said he’d been blown away by both the linear tune-in — up 13 percent year-over-year — and the social excitement around the procession of hosts, which included Kal Penn, Leslie Jones, Chelsea Handler, Hasan Minhaj and Sarah Silverman.
“It’s killing it,” said McCarthy, noting that on many weeks the social media footprint has been “10 times bigger” than the show has seen in years. And while he said he intended to wait until late spring to name a new host, for which he’d rely heavily on the input of longtime showrunner Jen Flanz, he had his own shortlist, which featured three guest hosts. Without naming names, McCarthy added, excitedly, “Two people came in and exceeded my expectations, but I had high expectations, and then somebody else just blew me away.”
According to multiple sources, that “somebody else” was Minhaj. In fact, the former correspondent’s deal to take over as Noah’s replacement was all but done by late summer, when The New Yorker published an article alleging that he had exaggerated and, in some cases, made up autobiographical details of his comedy. The fallout was swift. Skittish Paramount execs almost immediately distanced themselves from Minhaj, who was suddenly seen as a liability. (The comic later released a 20-minute video, via THR, where he fact-checked the New Yorker story, which he called “so needlessly misleading.”) The host search, it seemed, would continue, albeit after the SAG strike concluded. But patience was wearing thin.
By October, longtime correspondent Roy Wood Jr., who was considered a legitimate candidate early on in the process, announced he was exiting the show. He told NPR that his decision was based on the demands of the correspondent’s role on his schedule, as well as a disinterest in continuing in the position while “waiting for someone else to take the top job.” (His photo and bio remain on the Comedy Central site.) Then, by early January, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah won a surprise best variety talk series Emmy, and Wood, among many others at the show, joined Noah onstage. As Noah spoke into the mic, Wood could be seen behind him, mouthing, “Please hire a host.” THR caught up with him, post-show, and he noted: “I probably shouldn’t have done it, but this has been going on too long. Get it together!”
When asked about the same prolonged process, Noah has been more diplomatic. “I think the strike negatively affected the show, and so I get it,” he said in November. “I also don’t think it’s an easy slot to fill.” In the same breath, he praised the various guest hosts as well as Flanz and crew, who have successfully and painstakingly crafted an entirely new show for every one. At least with the correspondents, there’s a shorthand, and an all-important election year under their belt already. (Chieng and Lydic have been with the show since 2015, and Kosta and Sloan joined a year or two later. Then there’s Klepper, who is the most senior of them all, initially joining during the Stewart era, only to leave briefly to launch his own series.)
Noah, for his part, has continued to dole out hosting advice when asked. After all, as he told THR in a cover story timed to his exit, he wished he had known more going in. “I wish someone had told me what a grind it was,” Noah said, noting that the responsibilities extend far beyond simply hosting. “You’re also running the show, so everything from HR to designing the set, you’re a part of, and it doesn’t stop when you leave the building. There’s no moment when breaking news happens where I go, ‘Oh, wow, I don’t care.’ No, I have to care; being informed is part of my job.”
Stewart, who has also dabbled as both an activist and filmmaker since his exit in 2015, has been similarly clear on why he exited the first time. “The truth is I left The Daily Show for a reason. It didn’t feel like I was singing as joyful a song as I wanted to be singing, but my life was still really good. I had wonderful moments at the show, and I didn’t feel it was a burden,” he told THR in the summer of 2021. “I just didn’t know what else to do with it, this gift — and being allowed to be on TV is a gift. That said, I never felt the weight of the world at The Daily Show. I felt the weight of the team. I had this group of people who were industrious, talented, funny as fuck and raring to go, and my mind was wandering.”
That, to the delight of Paramount and his once-sizable Daily Show fan base, seems to have changed.
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