Comedy Central is reaching back to the past to keep its long-running “The Daily Show” going in the present.
After scuttling a months-long search for a new host, the Paramount Global network said it has enlisted Jon Stewart, who presided over the late-night mainstay’s most popular era, to serve as its host on Monday nights throughout the 2024 election cycle and to run the program. He is expected to play an oversight role at “Daily” that could extend through 2025, and will start his on-air duties February 12. Various “Daily Show” correspondents will host the program Tuesday through Thursday nights, and Jen Flanz, the current executive producer, will continue her duties on the show.
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“Jon Stewart is the voice of our generation, and we are honored to have him return to Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ to help us all make sense of the insanity and division roiling the country as we enter the election season,” said Chris McCarthy, President/CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, in a statement. “In our age of staggering hypocrisy and performative politics, Jon is the perfect person to puncture the empty rhetoric and provide much-needed clarity with his brilliant wit.”
Stewart made his own announcement on X after the news broke, saying that he’s “decided to enter the transfer portal for my last year of eligibility.”
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 24, 2024
Stewart is the persona most closely identified with “Daily,” and turned it from Comedy Central’s bid to be part of the late-night landscape into a cultural institution that became a touchstone for much of TV’s younger crowd. Since his exit in 2015, Stewart has tended to other projects. He has been an executive producer of CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and led a weekly foray into topical humor on Apple’s streaming service, a show called “The Problem With Jon Stewart” that did not gain as much traction as his tenure on “Daily.”
Comedy Central has been under intense scrutiny over the past year as it tested out a wide range of potential hosts, including Leslie Jones, Kal Penn and Sarah Silverman after the abrupt departure of Trevor Noah at the end of 2022. Executives have been determined to keep the program — a signature series for both the network and its parent, Paramount Global — particularly in an election year.
But the economics of late-night TV have weakened. Advertising dollars and audiences for the programs have begun to shrink in recent years as viewers move more readily to streaming video and watch more of the programs by checking out digital-media snippets of the programs the day after the run on linear TV. After capturing about $39.9 million in advertising dollars in 2022, “Daily Show” is on track to lure just under $19 million for 2023, according to Vivvix, a tracker of ad spending. Production last year was hampered by the Hollywood writers strikes, and Comedy Central did not run “Daily Show” repeats as its rivals at CBS, NBC and ABC did.
There has been speculation that Comedy Central may have reached out to people who did not appear in among “Daily’s” array of guests. Two people familiar with the matter say executives tried to interest comedian John Mulaney, for example, in taking on host duties.
Others have tested a model similar to what Comedy Central will do. NBCUniversal, faced with the departure of MSNBC’s most popular primetime host, Rachel Maddow, negotiated with her to have her continue to appear Monday nights and at important times in the news cycle, even as she pursued a bevy of other projects within the media company’s overall portfolio.
Executives at the network may be hoping that Stewart will cultivate new talent for “Daily,” and ultimately find the show’s next leader. During his “Daily” tenure, Stewart helped launch careers for many comedians, including John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Steve Carell. His knack for finding new voices and comedic actors may be as strong as that of Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
Under terms of the deal, James Dixon, a WME agent with deep ties to the world of late-night TV, will also serve as an an executive producer. Dixon works with Stewart, Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, and is also an executive producer of the new late-night entry at CBS, “After Midnight.” That program, which counts Colbert as one of its executive producers, is hosted by Taylor Tomlinson, and debuted less than two weeks ago.
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