Earlier this week, Jon Stewart appeared - as if he often wont to do - on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and gave an impassioned plea to the US and global media about how it's covering Donald Trump, how it followed Barack Obama, and its future.
It was funny, razor-sharp, intelligent and reminded us of just how sorely lacking just about every US TV show is when compared to Jon Stewart. It's easy to see why the likes of Seth Meyers' A Closer Look segment or Colbert's opening monologues have stepped in to fill the void and they've all been pretty good.
Likewise, SNL has made hay out of what's going on in US politics at the minute with its witty and outsized parodies of Donald Trump, Sean Spicer and Vladimir Putin. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has, as well, managed to fill the void with highly researched segments that have exposed many overlooked and underreported stories in both the US and global news-cycles.
The ample fruit of Donald Trump's administration with its disastrous policies, frequent gaffes and dangerous incompetence means that political satire - the very kind that Jon Stewart excelled in - is in high demand. Yet, for all of these opportunities, Stewart is largely uninterested and deigns to appear on Colbert's show whenever he gets a bee in his bonnet over something. Last week, it was the media's handling of Trump. A few weeks before that, it was the Muslim Ban. A few weeks from now, there'll probably be something else.
Reading any of the interviews Stewart did before, during and after he announced his retirement from the Daily Show, it is obvious that he was creatively and physically exhausted from doing the show and felt he had done everything he could with it. In a 2015 Guardian interview, Stewart explained that "it was a combination of the limitations of my brain and a format that is geared towards following an increasingly redundant process, which is our political process. I was just thinking, ‘Are there other ways to skin this cat?’ And, beyond that, it would be nice to be home when my little elves get home from school, occasionally.”
The last Daily Show with Jon Stewart went out on August 6th, 2015 and since then, Stewart's kept to himself - except for his spots on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he is also an Executive Producer. He turned up at WWE SummerSlam, voiced a character on Gravity Falls and even had a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. No-one could reasonably begrudge the man some time off and, looking at the impressive work he did on the Daily Show and beyond, he deserved his time away.
While it's easy to look at the various segments he does with Colbert as him perhaps pining for his glory days on the Daily Show, it's more likely that this is simply Stewart scratching an itch than actually him edging himself back into the landscape. As Executive Producer on the Late Show, he can pretty much write his own segments and drop them in as he sees fit. When he appears on screen, people want to see him and people will recognise that the offerings are lesser without him.
Sure, Seth Meyers is making a good fist of it, John Oliver's doing good stuff, Trevor Noah's trying his best, and Colbert's got form in the area. Yet, none of them are Jon Stewart and none of them have the same anger and passion that he had. When Jon Stewart was pissed off and curious, he was a force to be reckoned with. When he challenged people of both sides of the political sphere, he did it with integrity and incisiveness. That's something that really is lacking in political satire nowadays, and something that Stewart picked up on in his segment from earlier this week.
After exiting the Daily Show in 2015, Stewart signed a four-year deal with HBO to develop digital content for HBOGo, HBO Now and other platforms. So far, nothing has appeared and it's now 2017 with nothing appearing on the horizon. Whether that deal has lapsed or has since been put on the backburner is anyone's guess, but it's clear that Stewart isn't interested in going back to the formula that he became so beloved for. Any major television studio would kill for a chance to host Stewart, and as we can see on a daily basis, there's no shortage of material for him to work off of.
So what's stopping him? Why he is holding back? Does he not care? Or does he think there's no effective way of fighting the wave of bullshit coming from the White House? If Stewart were to step into the ring and take on Trump, it could change everything. Trump is a man who lives and dies by what he is perceived as. He's obsessed with ratings. He watches TV incessantly. Stewart just needs to get in front of a camera on a regular basis and start taking aim at Trump to get on his radar, and it wouldn't take long either.
If Stewart is planning something, if he has something up his sleeve that he's waiting to pull out, he needs to do it sooner rather than later because there may not be a chance later, if Donald Trump gets his way.