Jewish comedian Jon Stewart is my TV Dad — if you’re a left-leaning millennial or Zillennial, he’s probably yours too.
Starting around 2009, my family would gather together almost every night to watch “The Daily Show.” To this day, I can hear the show’s truimphant intro relay into its theme song in my mind. (Yes, I know this is cringe. Whatever!!) And when I do, I can feel resonances in my body of being a young tween and teen, tired after a long day but energized to listen to Jon Stewart. From the mid-2000s until 2015, Jon was the undeniable king of American comedy, having won 13 Emmys in a row for “The Daily Show.” But more importantly to me, he was charming, he spoke about politics and world news in an engaging way and he never shied away from his Jewish identity.
I watched the show religiously until Stewart left “The Daily Show” desk in August 2015. I left home for college a few weeks later, having had my lefty political identity jumpstarted by a charismatic middle-aged Jewish guy in a suit and tie who showed up on my TV every evening.
Now, our Jewish TV Dad is returning. Last week, it was announced that Jon Stewart would be returning to executive produce “The Daily Show” and host its Monday-night episodes starting on Feb. 12. At least for now, Stewart is slated for part-time hosting duties through the 2024 election and is expected to mostly discuss the impending Trump vs. Biden rematch.
I don’t know how to feel about it.
Of course, I think Jewish TV Dad will do a fine job. The short-lived “Problem with Jon Stewart” proved that he is still an incisive interviewer and hilarious political commentator. I’m sure he’ll tackle the 2024 election with his familiar wit and, as a vocal critic of Israel’s policies, perhaps he’ll even delve into the current situation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. (As he’s already covered Israel and Gaza in the past.) Meanwhile, on Instagram, “The Daily Show”‘s account is already leaning into fun self-aware jokes. A recent graphic of fun facts about Jon Stewart joked that his full name is “Jonathan DailyShow” (a reference to the time President Donald Trump randomly came after Jon for not using his given surname “Leibowitz”), that he “briefly hosted ‘The Daily Show’ for 16 years” and that it might surprise viewers to know that Jon is Jewish!
But the thing is: I don’t need a Jewish TV Dad anymore, and neither do my peers.
In the years since Jon Stewart left the “The Daily Show,” I’ve lived through the majority of my 20s, encountering rising global fascism and an ongoing pandemic. My political and religious beliefs are nearly fully-formed, and now I explore, challenge and enact them through the various communities I’m a part of. I don’t need Jon Stewart or “The Daily Show” to prime me to think about politics in the way they once did, and even if that weren’t the case, I’m old enough to want to find resources other than network TV. I would guess that the same is true for the majority of people who once watched “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” In 2010, at the height of Jon Stewart’s reign as host of “The Daily Show,” the Pew Research Center suggested that approximately 74% of the show’s regular viewers were between the ages of 18-49. Flash forward 14 years and that group of regular watchers is now between 32 and 63 and I presume that they, too, no longer need the political education “The Daily Show” once offered.
So who exactly is a rebooted “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for? Maybe younger members of Gen Z and Gen Alpha will tune in with their parents, like I once did. But my guess is that more of them are interested in having political discussions on TikTok. Which leads me to believe that the majority of people tuning in to see Jon Stewart host “The Daily Show” on Monday nights will be people my age, desperate for any reason to laugh at the horrible reality of having to relive the 2020 election and desperate to feel validated in having the beliefs they do. As much as I love Jon Stewart, I don’t think that’s a worthy enough reason to bring the old “Daily Show” back.
And all of this isn’t even touching “The Daily Show”‘s post-Trevor Noah failed host search, which has left the show in a weird limbo of its own making. If I had my way, the show would’ve given the desk over to veteran correspondent Roy Wood Jr. long ago. But, as things stand now, all I can do is wait to see what Jewish TV Dad makes of his second stint at “The Daily Show” and hope the show picks a new, permanent host to guide us through the pick-your-own-shitstorm that will be a second Trump or Biden presidency.