Comedy Podcasts Have Made Late-Night Shows Obsolete

With the announcement of his new podcast, ‘Daily Show’ host Jon Stewart demonstrates that he knows which way the winds are blowing
Comedy Podcasts Have Made Late-Night Shows Obsolete

Back in Johnny Carson’s heyday, every network besides NBC went to great lengths in search of a superstar comedian who could match the energy and entertainment value of the Tonight Show host. Today, every comedian with a microphone and Squarespace sponsorship thinks that they’re Johnny Carson.

Late last week, Comedy Central announced that they finally convinced Jon Stewart to take on a larger workload after a successful first couple of months at his part-time job back behind the desk of The Daily Show. Stewart will still only host the network’s flagship late-night show once a week, but, beginning in June, the greatest Daily Show host in history will also start putting out regular episodes of his new podcast The Weekly Show With Jon Stewart. “After much reflection, meditation and prayer, I have decided to extend my work week to two days,” Stewart joked in a statement. “All hail Comedy Central!”

It’s telling that the comedian whose name is synonymous with The Daily Show would rather sit down in a recording studio once a week and do informal interviews and shit-shooting than put on a suit and makeup just to try to keep a live studio audience warm on a nightly basis. As late-night TV itself slides further and further out of the cultural conversation, it’s worth asking the question — is Joe Rogan our Carson?

Stewart already has experience simultaneously running a weekly TV show and podcast after his brief time at AppleTV+ when he hosted a complementary talk show, The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast, alongside his ill-fated streaming series. On the show, Stewart eschewed strict, scripted joke-telling structure for a more off-the-cuff and in-depth feel that allowed him to dive deeper on the subjects that excited him with expert guests and his cadre of writers serving as his sounding board.

“This new podcast enables Jon to delve even deeper into complex issues and make sense of it for all of us through his razor-sharp wit and indelible humor,” said Chris McCarthy, Paramount Global Office of the CEO and President/CEO, Showtime & MTV Entertainment Studios, in a statement about The Weekly Show that was decidedly less wordy than his official title. McCarthy also called Stewart, “The voice of our generation and so critical to the national conversation.”

That national conversation that the honorable CEO/President/Omni-Executive mentioned isn’t happening on The Daily Show or its contemporaries anymore, and both Stewart and his producers seem hyper-aware of that reality. Nowadays, every semi-to-massively successful stand-up comedian has their own podcast on Spotify, Apple or iHeartRadio where they build followings off of their personalities as well as their wit, just as late-night hosts created their own legacies in Ye Olden Times. On these podcasts, figures like Rogan, Marc Maron and Stewart’s old colleague Conan O’Brien perform the same duties that were previously restricted to network-chosen entertainers as they discuss politics, news stories, new movies and TV shows and interview A-list artists and thought leaders.

There are too many overlapping reasons for why podcasts have been surging in popularity while late-night viewership continues to slide into a shell of its former self to list in this article — not the least of which is the fact that there are entire generations of comedy fans who don’t watch live TV — but the result is undeniable: The top three comedy podcasters have more influence on the zeitgeist than every late-night host put together, and the late-night hosts know it.


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