Just three months after Jon Stewart anchored his last episode of The Daily Show, the much-missed host has come back out of retirement. On Tuesday, Stewart announced a new project with HBO, which will kick off with "short-form digital content," according to a press release. Though the format is markedly different from that of his former show, Stewart will still apply his signature brand of humor and on-point critique to current events. Given the timing of the project, the content will likely include election coverage, a topic that Stewart has cited as one reason he left The Daily Show. So if he's presenting election coverage through his new project, it will surely be unlike anything else he's done before.
According to HBO's press release, Stewart's first project for the network will have him viewing "current events through his unique prism" and creating content in accordance with it. Stewart has been working with cutting-edge graphics company OTOY Inc. to develop technology that will enable him to produce short pieces of digital content throughout the day, which will air on HBO Now, HBO Go, and other platforms. The four-year contract with HBO will also include additional, yet-to-be-confirmed projects.
After finalizing the four-year contract with HBO, Stewart addressed his decision to move from TV to the digital format. He issued a statement in the release:
I’m so excited to be working with Richard [Plepler], Michael and the entire HBO family. Appearing on television 22 minutes a night clearly broke me. I’m pretty sure I can produce a few minutes of content every now and again.
At this time, it's unclear what exact format these digital shorts will take, or what specific role Stewart will play. But one thing is for sure: He'll be applying his signature always-on-point, no-nonsense, and hilarious yet poignant takes on everything he covers. His "unique prism," as HBO calls it.
In the past, Stewart has cited his increasing weariness over covering presidential elections as a reason for leaving The Daily Show . In April, he told The Guardian:
I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one.
However, he's coming back to the media landscape even deeper into the 2016 election cycle, so the possibility of avoiding it altogether is unlikely. What will most likely be different this time around is how he covers the election. At his former post on The Daily Show, Stewart anchored from behind the desk, presenting election news and interviewing candidates. Coverage was also supplemented by segments from his correspondents.
For his future election coverage, Stewart will likely establish a stronger hold in social media, since short-form digital content is made to be shareable. It's smart because election coverage involving social interaction is a much more powerful way to galvanize the masses and influence voters.
Another layer Stewart seems to be adding to his new programming is a technological and visual element that was never necessary on The Daily Show. He's collaborating with OTOY Inc., a company known for creating groundbreaking digital content and 3D graphics. The application of this technology could make election news exciting in unprecedented ways.
And then there's Stewart himself. After 16 years there, he will be expected to be anywhere but behind a desk. Fans will surely want to see him in the field, perhaps doing man-on-the-street interviews or taking viewers behind the scenes at campaign stops and events. As a maverick with a good deal of clout, Stewart could give Americans never-before-seen glimpses into politicians' processes.
In the same Guardian interview, Stewart hinted at what he'd be doing if he left The Daily Show:
[If I left the show,] I would do what I’m doing. Whether it’s standup, the show, books or films, I consider all this just different vehicles to continue a conversation about what it means to be a democratic nation.
He could have very well been talking about this new project. As the details continue to emerge, it's uncertain what these "different vehicles" will look like. But what is certain is that Stewart's election coverage will reflect his idea of a democratic nation.