Jon Stewart on The Late Show: angry and rusty but still essential
The former Daily Show anchor took over Steven Colberts desk to lambast Trumps RNC speech and we remembered why we need him now more than ever
When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show last summer, many people wondered how he could step down the year before a presidential election, when his show was always at its most vital. Now that the political contest has turned into the Hunger Games with Super Pacs, hes probably kicking himself. Luckily Stewart has some friends in high places, so he can come out of seclusion and get a few things about the election off his chest. He did just that last night on The Late Show, where he took over Steven Colberts desk to lambast Donald Trump and rip Fox News a new one.
Sporting a hiatus beard and looking a bit thinner than usual (some extra time for the gym and staying away from the writers room donuts sure helps), Stewart literally popped up from behind the desk where he jokes hes been sleeping since leaving The Daily Show. This is part of a gag that Stewart and Colbert started on Monday night where they make it seem as though Stewart has been in complete seclusion for months. This got tired very quickly, especially when he pretended not to know who Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian were.
Even so, it was still wonderful to hear Stewart expound on the election and he did it in a way that he always did on The Daily Show, by holding Fox News accountable for being a den of hypocrites who doesnt really bother with the truth and whose opinions seem to be as disposable as Justin Biebers Snapchats. His main argument was that conservative pundits always called Barack Obama a divisive, thin-skinned narcissist with little political experience and now theyve had to change course on all of those stances now that Trump is their nominee.
It was a solid thesis and one borne out with copious examples of Sean Hannity (who he repeatedly referred to as Lumpy) flip-flopping on his stance on everything from Obamas use of teleprompters to his elitism. But, if Im being honest, he seemed a little bit rusty. It was like he was an all-star pitcher who came out of retirement to play in a local charity game and who still has a killer arm, just one that needs a bit more warming up before hes really throwing fastballs.
But to replace his adroitness at delivering scathing criticism Stewart had a certain amount of anger. Usually on The Daily Show his attitude was snarky bewilderment at the hypocrisy of those in power. Here he was just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. I dont know if its because this isnt his show, if he kept that anger at bay during his decade on Comedy Central, or because this election will drive even the most rational person to spew rabid invective, but there was an emotion here that seemed unusual for Stewart.
It was a good look for him and he summed up many Americans feelings when he said to Fox News and Trump supporters: You just want that person to give you your country back because you feel like you are this countrys rightful owners. But theres only one problem with that: this country isnt yours. You dont own it.
It was a welcome blast of real feeling, so much so that the word bullshit had to be bleeped out (this is CBS after all), and Colbert reminded Stewart they were live. Ive never been on a show that had stakes before, he joked. Oddly, it isnt the Late Show that really has stakes. CBS isnt axing the show any time soon and theyre going to give Colbert plenty of time to grow. (And he has been the shining star of the glut of late-night coverage the convention got this past week.)
The show that really has stakes is The Daily Show, which continues to struggle with Trevor Noah behind the desk. If Stewart wanted to give his old home a bump in the ratings and some sorely needed authority, his presence could have given it the stamp of approval. Sure thats like revisiting your high school after graduation, but Noah could have used the bump way more that Colbert did.
Still it was great to see Stewart give us the old magic that weve been lacking this entire election cycle. Hopefully this will be a regular bit between now and November, and I can see plenty of viewers tuning in every night if they know that Jon Stewart could pop up from under the desk at any given moment. And if this keeps going on, by Halloween hell be well-oiled and back in prime condition.