‘What If Jon Stewart Ran for President?’ Was the Premise of a Terrible Robin Williams Movie

It involved an evil voting machine company
‘What If Jon Stewart Ran for President?’ Was the Premise of a Terrible Robin Williams Movie

Jon Stewart hosted the first live episode of The Daily Show of 2024, in response to Thursday’s presidential debate/carnival sideshow. Somewhat cathartically, Stewart’s opening segment ended with the host screaming, “This cannot be real life! Fuck!”

Following a less-than-ideal performance, many pundits are now calling for President Joe Biden to drop out of the race, and one name that’s been suggested to replace Biden’s on the Democratic ticket is Jon Stewart — presumably because of his successful return to The Daily Show, name recognition and a mistaken belief that the electorate is brimming with Death to Smoochy fans.

This isn’t the first time that someone has floated the idea of Stewart running for president. In addition to various rumors and op-eds, back in the mid-aughts, during the height of The Daily Show’s popularity and influence, Rain Man director Barry Levinson made a movie that essentially imagined what would happen if a Stewart-like comedian ran for president and won.

Man of the Year starred Robin Williams as Tom Dobbs, the host of a thinly-veiled Daily Show stand-in, whose charismatic truth-telling helps pave the way to the White House. If the comparison to Stewart wasn’t blatant enough, Dobbs’ producer is played by frequent Daily Show contributor Lewis Black. 

But while the basic setup clearly sought to capitalize on Stewart’s prominent place in the zeitgeist, the actual movie didn’t exactly live up to that potential. Critics at the time pointed out that the Dobbs character was far more like Robin Williams than Jon Stewart, and his humor was not “nearly as edgy as The Daily Show’s.” Entertainment Weekly noted that Stewart was “mentioned almost as many times as the film’s actual star, Robin Williams.”

The strangest thing about Man of the Year is that, while it was advertised as a broad political comedy, it basically becomes a thriller. Much of the movie about a corrupt electronic voting machine company, Delacroy, which tries to cover up a fraudulent election. In retrospect it would have been huge with Fox News viewers today.

It turns out that Dobbs didn’t win the election, and Delacroy goes after the lone employee who wants to tell the world their secret, played by Laura Linney. 

So Dobbs blows the whistle in the most appropriate venue possible: Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. Yes, this is a movie in which the President of the United States exposes a criminal conspiracy while seated next to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I guess that’s slightly better than delivering an important message to the American people on “What Up With That?”

We should mention that Stewart has made it very clear that he has no intention of running for president — possibly because he saw how it worked out for Tom Dobbs. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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