In his sixties, Jon Stewart came crawling back to the thing that made his career: sarcastically reading leftist agitprop from a teleprompter while making quirky faces at the camera.
There was a reason that Stewart left. The shtick, invented to puncture the patriotism of Bush-era America, had been picked up by everyone else and beaten to death. Stewart didn’t leave on a high note, but the one good thing you could say about him, was that he eventually did leave. Now you can’t even say that anymore.
Like an aging Monty Python cast member of 70s rock star going back on tour, Jon Stewart came crawling back to mug for the camera, sarcastically read headlines, and says the expected prog pieties while his voice goes up and down like Ed Wynn with less testosterone.
The shtick is still dead and so is Stewart. Back when he first began doing it, he could at least seem youthful. Now, even though he’s only 61, he seems much older and when he’s mocking Biden for being old, he’s unconsciously doing an imitation of him, with a narrow-eyed stare, hunched back and fake looking hair.
The old sitcom comedian’s tics (before he hit it big mocking the War on Terror, Stewart guested on such sitcoms as The Nanny) may have been annoying on a young man, but now just seem like the tics of a man who has grown old before his own time. Even lefties found his Apple TV show a sad unfocused mess in which Stewart yelled at people like he was trying to be Keith Olbermann. And somewhere along the way, that’s what happened.
The Daily Show’s ironic hipster ethos depended on cultivating the illusion of distance. Jon Stewart pretended to be both a commentator and a comedian, the clown nose came on and off depending on the needs of the beat, but there was always that distance that made him seem like a clever observer of the scene, not truly part of it.
But that ironic distance, so valued by Gen X, was disdained by millennials and zoomers who preferred their trolling filled with unambiguous contempt, and Stewart wears it like an ill-fitting clown suit. The Problem With Jon Stewart jettisoned the distance and he can’t credibly pretend to be that guy anymore. He can hardly even pretend to be the guy pretending to be his younger self again. Like everyone else, Stewart is angry and without the ordered chummy media world that he disrupted decades ago, there’s nothing to set him apart.
Jon Stewart is no longer a provocateur. Like all his successors, his job is to say things that his entire audience believes (Trump, bad, Israel, bad) in a sing-song voice while squinting at the camera in the hopes of scoring some sweet clapter.
At least in The Problem With Jon Stewart, he was true to himself as a crotchety celebrity who doesn’t understand issues, but wants everyone to run the country the way he wants them to. A Daily Show comeback however has Stewart trying to step back in time to who he was only to fail miserably at that.