Jon Stewart shows late-night conformity cabal how political comedy is done

Jon Stewart left late-night comedy six years ago, but the industry continued to thrive. Not because of the great swath of raw talent, of course, but because of the candidacy-turned-presidency of Donald Trump. 

And the change in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, along with Seth Meyers on NBC and Stewart’s old “Daily Show” on Comedy Central was profound: All became virtual extensions of CNN and MSNBC (the only difference being studio audiences and massive writing teams) in attacking Trump, or Republicans, or both, all while courting Democrats or cable news personalities from the aforementioned networks to replace actual celebrities as A-list guests. 

It was profoundly predictable night after night after night … something you could never say about Stewart in his nearly 20 years at the helm of “The Daily Show.” 

Fast-forward to 2021, and late-night on the broadcast networks and Comedy Central find themselves in the same predicament as two-thirds of major cable news: Viewers are fleeing in droves. That’s what happens when all-things-Trump are myopically put at the forefront of every offering: You take J.R. Ewing off “Dallas,” and there’s no more “Dallas.” You take Trump off the stage, there’s no more cable news that has existed since June 2015, no more late-night “comedy” on CBS, NBC and ABC. It’s the main (albeit not only) reason why CNN has lost nearly 70 percent of its audience since the beginning of the year, while MSNBC is down more than 40 percent. 

On Monday night, Stewart returned as a guest for Colbert’s first program with a live studio audience in New York City. But bashing Trump – something the one-trick Colbert undoubtedly wanted to do for minutes on end – was not on Stewart’s mind. 

Instead, he wanted to make the argument that the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans and nearly 3.8 million people worldwide came from a Wuhan lab. This kind of argument would have been banned from even being discussed by the politburo that is Facebook just one month ago. But here was Stewart making the best case that we’ve seen yet from anyone not named Tom Cotton or Donald Trump. 

“This is not a conspiracy,” Stewart said about the lab theory that was dubbed a reckless conspiracy theory by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and other news outlets one year ago. “Oh my god, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China, what do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird!”

“I will say this – and I honestly mean this – I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science,” he added. “Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic, which was more than likely caused by science.” 

“There’s been an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania, what do you think happened? I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel made it with a cocoa bean. Or it’s the f*** chocolate factory!”

Colbert – who only sees things through a “Republicans bad” political prism – replied this way. “How long have you worked for Senator Ron Johnson?” he asked, referring to the Wisconsin Republican. Yep, that’s laugh-out-loud funny. 

In a related story, Johnson was recently suspended by Google’s YouTube for sharing an observational study by medRxiv that concluded hydroxychloroquine, along with zinc, could increase COVID-19 survival rate by nearly 200 percent when given to ventilated patients at higher doses who have a severe condition of the virus.

“They have decided there is only one medical viewpoint allowed and it is the viewpoint dictated by government agencies,” Johnson responded in a statement. “YouTube’s ongoing Covid censorship proves they have accumulated too much unaccountable power. Big Tech and mainstream media believe they are smarter than medical doctors who have devoted their lives to science and use their skills to save lives.”

Across the news spectrum the day after the Stewart interview, Colbert drew headlines that he hasn’t seen in some time for a guest interview. Reason: Stewart went against the grain. He didn’t care about the host’s view on the subject, or how the largely liberal audience would react. In other words, he didn’t conform to the groupthink that led to all of the aforementioned news organizations jumping to the no-questions-asked conclusion that COVID-19 came from a wet market and not from the lab that studies gain-of-function research.  

What was a “crazy” conspiracy theory before the 2020 election is now mainstream. But it didn’t take a sitting president or sitting senator to tell us about the Wuhan lab — or an objective media to dig into its origins in an effort to get to the truth while helping us learn lessons on avoiding a similar pandemic from happening again.  

It took Jon Stewart, retired comedian, who hopefully will un-retire soon. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.

Tags coronavirus Donald Trump Jimmy Kimmel Jon Stewart lab leak Ron Johnson Ron Johnson Stephen Colbert Television in the United States The Colbert Report The Daily Show Tom Cotton trumpism Wuhan Institute of Virology

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