It's strange to think that, just four short years ago, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show was one of the only non-news network programs that spent the majority of its airtime focused on politics. He metaphorically passed the baton to everyone else in the industry, though, when he left the Comedy Central hit in 2015, and now it's nearly impossible to find a late night talk show that isn't heavily focused on Donald Trump's antics in Washington D.C. It's also fairly difficult to find Stewart on the small screen anywhere.
Hopefully the Great Jon Stewart TV Drought of The Early-Mid Aughts will only be a temporary blight, and the comedian's fans have been quite vocal about wanting him back on TV in some capacity. How does Stewart himself feel about possibly returning? His thoughts on the matter:
There’s nothing TV did to make me go away. I’d done it for so long I was just ready to go. It doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a situation in the future — I’m relatively busy — but there could easily come a time when I knock on the door and say, “Let’s do a Three’s Company reboot, and I’ll be the Suzanne character.” Who knows? I don’t know that I’d ever want to return to that type of grind, but maybe doing other things. I really enjoy the process. That’s the joy of it. And who doesn’t want more joy?
The first thing that we can easily glean from that answer is that Jon Stewart almost definitely won't be returning to a 5-nights-a-week gig like The Daily Show or any of the other late night staples. As he put it, that job is a real grind, and I can't imagine it's easy to let go of that kind of work, especially when the creative teams are so invested in cynical and satirical slants on a never-ending stream of disturbing news stories. Where's the joy, dammit?
Of course, there are obviously many more shows on TV beyond just The Daily Show and its ilk, so the pressure isn't wholly on Jon Stewart to jump right back in the same talk show setting he was in before. Granted, I also don't think anyone is pushing him to immediately join any Three's Company reboots – though he would make a fantastic Chrissy Snow – but there's bound to be a happy medium between those that'd be a perfect fit for Stewart.
If he would still be into getting behind a desk and chatting people up, he could likely do so on a show with a more easygoing process. It seems likely that Netflix would back a truck of money up to Jon Stewart's house if he agreed to talk to war veterans on a weekly basis, or even if he just hosted a comedic series centered on fake political debates. Hell, I would even love it if he became a permanent third judge on Nailed It!
Given Jon Stewart's penchant for promoting civil duties and democracy, his potential return to television likely won't be for something so frivolous. For instance, Stewart made headlines everywhere this week for his emotional testimonial before the House Judiciary Committee for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. At times breaking down in tears, Stewart feistily defended the many, many thousands of men and women who worked tirelessly to restore normalcy to Ground Zero and the surrounding areas after the 9/11 attacks.
The bill was unanimously passed by the committee the day after Jon Stewart's pleas were heard and watched around the country, easily proving that the man can draw an impassioned crowd of viewers no matter what the medium or the circumstances. He definitely wasn't thinking about his small screen return at the time, but it was a big reminder of the Jon Stewart-sized hole that has been in our TV viewing for the past few years.
The comedian has been doing some work in that area, and even shared some standup dates with Dave Chappelle. (Remember Stewart's cameo as the conspiratorial stoner in Half Baked?) It'd be great to see him record a stand-up special at some point, wouldn't it?
Speaking with the Tampa Bay Times about his upcoming movie Irresistible, Stewart was asked if he has any anxiety to feel he has to keep creating. His answer:
I’d say there’s an anxiety just in general, mostly to do with bone density. The thing is, when you’re not on television, you still exist. I’ve been going out doing standup, doing some writing, actually having conversations with my family. With regards to projects and things, I just try to do things I’m interested in. Not doing things just to do them.