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The Comenian

Does Jon Stewart’s Comedy Still Work In 2024?

Photo courtesy of Comedy Central
Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

In August 2015, the legendary Jon Stewart ended his extensive 16-year-long run as host of The Daily Show. Since then, for many, the show hasn’t truly lived up to the golden era under Stewart despite the new host, Trevor Noah’s best efforts. 

After Noah’s departure in 2022 and the revolving door of new hosts in 2023, Jon Stewart has finally made his return to The Daily Show ……. on Mondays. He will be hosting one day a week up until the November presidential election and will produce the show into 2025.

Ahead of Trump vs. Biden round two, it feels perfectly fitting that we get a re-run of Stewart as host of The Daily Show. Still, I and many others can’t help but feel this was a desperate measure to try and get the show back to its former heights amidst the slow decline of late-night shows in the last decade.

This return, however, has not received flowers and rainbows. Upon his first show back on Feb. 12, Stewart was met with a slew of allegations proclaiming him as a “bothsidesist fraud” because of his scathing criticism of both Trump and Biden ahead of the 2024 election.

To say the least, the people getting mad at him for this are absolutely ridiculous; he and most other late-night enthusiasts can agree that Donald Trump is an awful candidate and needs to be kept from office at all costs, but just because the orange is rotten does not mean the other fruit is ripe.

Despite what annoying liberals on Twitter (no, I’m not calling it X, fight me Elon) might say, Trump’s ineptitude does not shield Biden from criticism of his handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict, scaling back of environmental regulations after receiving an endorsement from the auto workers’ union, or the damaging special counsel report that questioned his age and competency by calling him a “well-meaning old man with poor memory.” 

As Stewart said on his show, because Trump is so bad, we should be MORE critical of Biden as we should be holding him to a higher standard than “well, he’s the better of two evils.” Stewart is by no means both sitting on the fence. Anyone with two brain cells would know that Stewart has never done that, but he has criticized both parties because (guess what) neither of them are great.

Stewart has never been one to just fall in line with one side just because the other is worse; in fact, his doing that would arguably be antithetical to the practice of comedy. The job of a comedian is essentially to point out the absurdities of life, but to do so, a good comedian must think and act independently from a set social standard. A good comedian doesn’t conform, they question.

Beyond the disingenuous criticism, is Jon Stewart still up to the task? Can he still capture the same energy and wit as he did before? Absolutely, yes. While his jokes may not always land and he might not get to address everything he clearly wants to with the tight time constraints, Stewart’s honesty and integrity still shine through more than ever.

In a media landscape that is littered with disingenuous ideologues like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, Jon Stewart is that rare example of someone who won’t conform to a neatly made box for executives to throw him in. A good comedian rejects the dogmatic practices of either side. That’s not to say that they are both sidesist, but rather that they hold both sides of the aisle accountable for their actions.

In this sense, Jon Stewart isn’t only still on his game, he’s exactly the type of comedian we need in a time like this. 2024 very much seems to be the year of old news but I think this is the one re-run we actually needed.

Since that first controversial monologue, Stewart has continued to cover the presidential election along with Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip and ruthlessly mocked Trump for his rhetoric behind the Mexican border. Both times, he very much took a stance so to say that his stance is just “both sides are bad” is just willfully obtuse at best and disingenuous at worst.

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