Jon Stewart is opening up about his highly anticipated return as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, nearly nine years after leaving the nightly gig.
Appearing on Monday’s CBS Mornings before returning as Daily Show host on Mondays through the 2024 election, Stewart said it was indeed the political environment that brought him back, while also sharing that the move was influenced by his departure from Apple TV+ over creative differences.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
“I very much wanted to have some place to unload thoughts as we get into this election season,” Stewart said, then referring to The Problem With Jon Stewart not moving forward with a third season on the streamer. “I thought I was going to do it over at — they call it Apple TV+. It’s a television enclave, very small. It’s like living in Malibu. They decided, they felt that they didn’t want me to say things that might get me in trouble.”
Though he has thoughts, Stewart — joining hosts Gayle King, Tony Dokoupil and Nate Burleson for an in-studio interview — was modest about the influence that his version of the show could have on real-world events.
“I don’t know about hoping to have an influence, but I’m hoping to have a catharsis and a way to comment on things and a way to express them that hopefully people will enjoy,” he said. “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.”
Just weeks after the 2016 presidential election, Stewart had a similar approach speaking at an event in New York, quickly rejecting arguments put forth online that his version of The Daily Show could have influenced the results.
“We were the destroyers of men and creators of empires,” Stewart joked at the time. “I think that generally is satire’s role and has always been: the rise and fall of civilization at our whim.”
Ahead of his Monday return, Stewart also spoke with The Daily Show’s Ears Edition podcast about why he wanted to come back now.
“If you want to be present in this world, you have to be present in this conversation and you have to be as relentless and as tenacious as the counter-narrative that’s being formed. So much of the information that we see now is weaponized … and it keeps taking exponential leaps,” he said. “It’s not just the election. It’s AI. It’s the way that we’ve militarized all our conflicts. It all ties together to one larger idea, which is the form of government we love so much is an analog — I don’t want to say dinosaur — but it is analog and the world now moves at an increasingly infinite digital pace, and reconciling those two things, I think, is the challenge of the moment for people.”
On CBS Mornings, Stewart also spoke about returning to the cable program as the media landscape has changed since he left The Daily Show in 2015, with Burleson arguing that many young people are getting their news from places like TikTok and other forms of social media.
“Generally, I will be doing it with choreographed dance moves,” Stewart joked of how that shift would affect his approach, before turning serious and arguing that quality content will find an audience. “Information is information, and if it’s good content people will find their way to it,” he said. “I think the worst thing you can do is pander to this idea that young people absorb knowledge and information in an entirely different way.”
It was announced last month that, through the 2024 election, Stewart would return as host of The Daily Show, on Monday nights only, starting Feb. 12. The rest of the week, the series will be hosted by a rotating team of the show’s correspondents, who include Jordan Klepper, Desi Lydic, Ronny Chieng, Michael Kosta and Dulcé Sloan.
However, Stewart will be an executive producer on the other nights as well, allowing the part-time host to be heavily involved in the show leading up to the election and even beyond, with Stewart’s deal keeping him in place as an executive producer through at least 2025.
Stewart’s return comes as The Daily Show continues to search for a permanent replacement for Stewart’s successor, Trevor Noah, who unexpectedly exited the hosting gig in 2022.
While Stewart was reluctant to talk more on CBS Mornings about why he was only returning on Mondays, that setup likely made his return more appealing as the host was openly exhausted by the end of his initial run. Kicking off the week also allows him to set the agenda for the next few days and comment on a weekend’s worth of news.
And the corporate synergy of an appearance on another network, like Comedy Central owned by Paramount Global, did not go unnoticed by Stewart.
After King issued a disclaimer about the networks’ mutual corporate parent, Stewart was quick to quip, “Who’s got the tote bag? Paramount Global tote bag.”
“I thought it was called Viacom,” he added of the conglomerate, before joking, “It’s just billionaires moving us around on a Stratego board.”
Best of The Hollywood Reporter