'The Daily Show' Bringing Back Jon Stewart Feels Like A Cop-Out

After a year of rotating guest hosts in and out of the chair, Comedy Central and “The Daily Show” are right back where they were nine years ago: with Jon Stewart.

The network has announced Stewart, who hosted from 1999 to 2015, as its new once-a-week host and executive producer, starting Feb. 12. Stewart will host Monday nights through the election cycle, with other “Daily Show” correspondents covering Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It may be exciting for some to see the late night veteran back in the role he held for 16 years, but this move feels underwhelming at best and regressive at worst.

Since Trever Noah’s last show as host in December 2022, various guests have taken their turn as anchors, including Roy Wood Jr., Hasan Minhaj, Leslie Jones, Marlon Wayans, Desus Nice, Chelsea Handler and more. Comedy Central pump-faked on choosing an official replacement a few times in 2023, with Minhaj as a front-runner until The New Yorker called him out for lying about some instances of Islamophobia he talked about in his stand-up.

Wood, who worked as a correspondent on the show for eight years, was another fan favorite to succeed Noah. He left the show in October after it was apparent that Comedy Central had little intention of giving him the job, even though he was arguably the most qualified.

“I can’t come up with Plan B is while still working with Plan A,” Wood told NPR. “The job of correspondent... it’s not really one where you can juggle multiple things. [And] I think eight years is a good run.”

Stewart is undoubtedly a pro (and he probably needs something to do after his show “The Problem with Jon Stewart” ended last year over reported tensions with Apple TV+, where it streamed). Stewart redefined “The Daily Show” and made an unquestionable impact on late night television. And, of course, Comedy Central can’t have a vacant seat during an election year. But this still feels like a step backward.

The network’s decision is a business-safe one. But on this week’s episode of “I Know That’s Right,” I talk about how it’s also indicative of an industry afraid to lean into changing demographics and step into a new era of late night TV. If anything, it sends a message that there’s little room in that space for newer voices, or for progress.

Listen to the episode here.

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