This Version of Jon Stewart Is Joe Rogan If Joe Rogan Were Smart

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This Version of Jon Stewart Is Joe Rogan If Joe Rogan Were Smart

In the modern media landscape, podcasts have overtaken traditional late-night shows as the primary platform for charismatic comics to shoot the shit with interesting people — imagine how much more money Johnny Carson would have made if he had hawked nootropics.

We are now one month into Jon Stewart’s once-weekly election cycle experiment on The Daily Show, and the positive reaction from his fans shows that their king of critical and clever political comedy hasn’t lost a single step in the nine years he spent away from the Daily Show desk. Leading up to what will undoubtedly be one of the most acrimonious and controversial presidential elections in American history, Stewart’s “Indecision: 2024” coverage will continue to examine the individual issues at the heart of the divide between left and right with the help of the authorities in each field while liberal-leaning late-night watchers rejoice in the return of their favorite satirical security blanket.

Just as he was during his original run on The Daily Show, Stewart is already an accidental thought leader for so many of his followers who consider him their primary source of political analysis, with the show bearing the sarcastic slogan, “America's only source for news.” However, this time around, Stewart’s once-weekly work schedule has enabled him to dive deeper into specific topics as he’s adapted the pseudo-journalistic and panel-curating aspects of his canceled Apple TV+ show The Problem with Jon Stewart into a version of The Daily Show that emphasizes expert opinion and curious lines of questioning to unpack each subject. 

Basically, it’s your liberal aunt’s version of The Joe Rogan Experience, only the guests actually know what the fuck they’re talking about.

On last Monday’s Daily Show, Stewart dedicated the majority of his airtime to tackling the issue of illegal immigration, quoting both Democrat and Republican lawmakers’ rhetoric on a topic that will surely play a central role in the November elections. Then, just as he’d done with past weeks’ episodes, he chose to end the night by interviewing a guest who had deeper knowledge on the night’s central talking point, award-winning journalist Jonathan Blitzer, whose most recent book is titled Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here: The United States, Central America and the Making of a Crisis.

Authors promoting their politically-minded books obviously isn’t a new feature of The Daily Show, but Stewart’s conversation with Blitzer has followed the same pattern of other Stewart-led Daily Show episodes leading up to this one. The interview portion of the show now serves to conclude the singular throughline of the evening, giving Stewart the opportunity to probe more informed minds than his own about the issues he discusses and ask questions that only journalists and academics who have devoted their lives to such subjects can answer. Instead of treating the last 10 minutes of every episode as a fluff segment for Bradley Cooper to crank out some anecdotes about his newest movie, Stewart is letting his authoritative guests get the last word in the conversations they know best. 

Compare this to the intellectual curiosity of Joe Rogan, who wields as much influence over center-to-far-right comedy fans as Stewart does over their more liberal counterparts, if not more so. Rogan takes a similarly inquisitive approach to interviewing experts, looking to elucidate truths that he thinks the mainstream media will not explore — only, when Rogan does it, those “experts” are guys like clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson who wield their academic credits like a license to kill as they expand their areas of expertise into inaccurately assessing climate models to the outrage of actual climatologists.

At his core, I really do think that, on the semi-uncommon occasions when he invites journalists, academics and experts onto his podcast, Rogan has the same goal as Stewart in his current Daily Show run. Rogan and Stewart both want to interrogate the expert opinion on a subject that they think is widely misunderstood, even by themselves. The difference between them is that, unlike Rogan, Stewart has the ability to smell bullshit from a mile away and won’t let his guests use The Daily Show to push bad science and unsubstantiated claims.

This focused, single-issue edition of The Daily Show is what I think the more serious episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience would look like if Alpha Brain made you read the news.

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