Jon Stewart’s appearance on The Late Show‘s coverage of the Republican National Convention was highly anticipated to say the least. It’s been a strange election season so far, and the fact that it’s the first one in the 2000s that Jon Stewart hasn’t covered for The Daily Show only makes it feel stranger. So the promise of Jon Stewart reuniting with Stephen Colbert was in part a promise for a return to some familiarity. It wasn’t clear exactly what Jon would be doing on The Late Show, but we certainly couldn’t have predicted that he would just ply himself as a hermit in the woods, reacting to the news of Donald Trump’s candidacy with an amusing spit-take and back and forth with Stephen Colbert, before introducing the person who’s been hiding in plain sight since September: “Stephen Colbert”.
Yes, Stephen Colbert and his team decided that the best way for The Late Show to cover the RNC was to turn it into the Colbert Report. “Stephen Colbert” rode into the theater on a triumphal chariot, ego intact, and ready to take on Trumpiness in his beloved segment, The Word. It was exciting, like seeing an old friend where you least expected it, but it was also a little bit strange. How should this be interpreted exactly? Just as a fun way to try to make sense of the complete zaniness that is this presidential election? Or a sign of admission that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert just isn’t working in its current format? That maybe the best parts of The Late Show are the ones that most closely resemble the Colbert Report?
The return of “Stephen Colbert” only lasted a segment, but it was absolutely the most energetic and entertaining segment of the night. For all the hype of the live coverage of the RNC, there was very little that couldn’t have been prepared and filmed at 4pm, like usual. Also, it was a little bit strange to go from the political humor of The Colbert Report straight into a celebrity interview with Zoe Saldana on The Late Show, especially since it felt like there was so much more of the RNC to unpack. Plus, if you’re going to bring back Jon Stewart, bring back Jon Stewart. In studio, at a desk, breaking it down. We’re sure Jon will appear again this week (Stephen Colbert all but guaranteed it), and we look forward to seeing what form that takes, and whether he’s there with Stephen Colbert or “Stephen Colbert.”