The king is back. Jon Stewart, the original cable news satirist who spawned a dozen imitators, will be returning to The Daily Show to host Monday nights, at least through the election, and will be executive producing the series through 2025. The question is whether an old dog can learn new tricks in his old dog house—and no, I’m not calling him a dog. The fact is, Stewart has changed. The media has changed. And somewhere along the way to Charlottesville and January 6th, political comedy started getting more serious.
When Stewart first started hosting The Daily Show, back in 1999, his targets were easily and deservedly skewered: hypocritical politicians, bloviating pundits, the absurdity of fundamentalism, the shallowness of cable news. Over the years, of course, as Stewart ascended to one of the most revered figures in the culture, it became harder to pretend it was all just a joke. But Stewart never dropped the self-deprecating shtick—“We’re just the show on after Crank Yankers”—even after his “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” drew more than 200,000 people to Washington, D.C.