Up until mid-afternoon on Monday, the guest slot was still “TBD” on The Daily Show’s website. And it’s because host Trevor Noah had something special in store for his audience.
After an opening segment about President Obama’s primetime address to the nation, Noah did a fake-out about iguanas and the “reptile kingdom” when a bearded and T-shirted Jon Stewart walked out onto the set for the first time since he left the “war on bullshit” behind more than three months ago.
“I can't believe it! This is awesome!” an excited Noah said. “Oh, wait, wait, wait, shit. Are you here to take the show back?” He added, “I heard about this in American TV,” referring to a certain Tonight Show host who screwed over his successor.
Assuring Noah he’s not there to steal back what was rightfully his, Stewart said, “I have this issue I care about very deeply and I was wondering—I want to get attention paid to it but I was realizing I don’t have a show, and nobody gives a shit anymore. So I thought, you have a show, and maybe I could come and…”
With the platform granted, Stewart explained that he was continuing his crusade to make sure 9/11 first responders are given the benefits and medical care they deserve. Just this past week, Stewart returned to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress once again to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
“Of course there was no reason not to renew it permanently, but they did not renew it anyway!” Stewart explained of the Zadroga Act. “It expired in September. Soon to be out of money, these first responders—many sick with cancers and pulmonary disease—had to travel at their expense to Washington, D.C., hundreds of times to plead for our government to do the right thing.”
“The only conclusion I can draw is that the people of Congress are not as good a people as the people who are first responders,” the former host declared.
From there, Stewart presented what was likely his first field piece for The Daily Show in his 16-year tenure with the program. He found out what it was like for his various correspondents to get kicked out of congressional buildings over the years. When an aide told him he couldn’t film in the congressional chamber, he remarked, “You don’t want it in the shame chamber, you want it in the shame hallway.”
With no members of Congress willing to speak to him on camera, Stewart resorted to explaining the issue to small children, who had little problem understanding the no-brainer of an issue.
After a break, Noah gave over The Daily Show to Stewart for another segment, in which he brought out one of the first responders he spoke with 5½ years ago. “Just out of curiosity, where is everybody?” he asked his one guest, FDNY firefighter Kenny Specht.
“Just you and I,” Specht said. “Five and a half years ago we did a show. Seventy-five percent of the panel is no longer here. Two of the people have illnesses and, obviously, by law, I can’t comment on how sick they are, and John Devlin, who sat at the last chair, an operating engineer, passed away since our show. So I think we brought the statistics to show that, when we did the show five and a half years ago, four men sat here. It’s just you and I.”
Specht thanked Stewart for helping to get the original bill passed but lamented the fact that it is by no means guaranteed a renewal. “They keep moving the goalposts and they keep telling us there’s things we have to do, and when we do it, it’s not enough,” he said.
After 2½ months of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, a fired-up Jon Stewart was a welcome presence Monday night. And it’s good to see he still has the platform he needs when it’s important.