“Are you disappointed yet?” Aware of the high expectations attached to his return to “The Daily Show,” and as self-aware and meta as ever, Jon Stewart asked the question early in his opening segment Monday night.
My bet is that some of his fans were indeed disappointed with his monologue and the subjects he addressed — not necessarily those in the audience, who gave him a standing ovation, but those anticipating that he’d use this homecoming to release pent-up anger solely about Donald Trump and the right. Stewart left the Comedy Central comedy-news show on the eve of the 2016 election, so surely, in the first of his weekly appearances behind the anchor desk, he was raring to take on Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election.
And Stewart did satirize those problems, of course, along with Trump’s recent Mafia-like statements about NATO, his impeachments, and his legal cases; but he also spent a big chunk of his monologue grieving the likely repeat of the 2020 presidential contest and, in particular, worrying about the advanced ages of both Trump and President Biden. Among the many names he proposed for the show’s election coverage were “Antiques Roadshow” and “Electile Dysfunction.” Both of them, he quipped, seem to “live at the Villages,” by which he meant the retirement community.
He did not spare the Democratic president from his derision, mocking Biden’s decision to go on TikTok, asking, “How do you go on TikTok and end up looking older?” After showing a TikTok clip of Biden, he left a pause for laughter and then said, alluding to Biden’s staff, “Fire everyone.”
He did goof on the special counsel’s determination that Biden is “a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” using footage of Trump and his children claiming they were unable to recall basic facts during their own depositions. “Yes, it turns out the leading cause of early onset dementia is being deposed,” he joked.
But Stewart refused to soften on the president. Both Biden and Trump are ”stretching the limits of being able to handle the toughest job in the world,” he said in a more serious moment. “What’s crazy is thinking that we’re the ones as voters who must silence concerns and criticisms. It is the candidate’s job to assuage concerns, not the voters’ job not to mention them.” Of course, he finished worrying about age with a joke, calling the camera close to his face to say, “Look what time hath wrought.”
With his jabs at both Biden and Trump, Stewart was laying out his approach for his upcoming election coverage. His premiere suggested that he would not fall into a social-media-styled divisions, and that, whether viewers like it or not, he would not pander to them.