Jon Stewart is returning to late night.
Mr. Stewart will take the reins of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” the show he hosted to huge success from 1999 to 2015, for one night a week through the 2024 presidential election, the network said in a surprise announcement on Wednesday. Mr. Stewart’s first show will be on Feb. 12.
“The Daily Show” has been without a permanent host since Trevor Noah stepped down in late 2022. Stewart will also be a producer on all episodes of “The Daily Show.” Other episodes of the show will be hosted by a rotating lineup of the show’s news team.
“We are honored to have him return to Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ to help us all make sense of the insanity and division roiling the country as we enter the election season,” said Chris McCarthy, a senior executive at Paramount, Comedy Central’s parent.
Mr. Stewart appeared to acknowledge his return to “The Daily Show” in a social media post shortly after the news was announced. “Excited for the future!” he said while making a joke about college football.
Mr. Stewart’s relentless focus on politics over his 16-year “Daily Show” run, unusual for late night at the time, transformed him from a promising comedian into one of the nation’s foremost political and media critics. Mr. Stewart had his detractors, and the viewership of “The Daily Show” lagged others at the time but his influence was outsize — and long lasting.
Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, two “Daily Show” correspondents who catapulted to fame during Mr. Stewart’s tenure, landed their own late night shows, which they still host. And like Mr. Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” their shows also have a laser focus on current events — nearly always with a left-leaning bias — and helped reorder the late-night landscape in the process.
Mr. Stewart taped his final episode of “The Daily Show” just hours before the first Republican debate of the 2016 election cycle, an event that shattered ratings records and formally introduced Donald J. Trump to the country as a prospective politician.
After he stepped down, Mr. Stewart signed a contract with HBO that amounted to little. In 2021, he created an Apple TV+ show, “The Problem,” that ran for all of 20 episodes and often struggled to gain traction. Mr. Stewart left in October 2023, shortly before the third season of the show was to go into production, telling associates that he had disagreements with Apple executives over future show topics, including hot-button issues like China and artificial intelligence.
Mr. Stewart’s return to cable television — albeit, just on Monday nights — will send a jolt to the late-night world, which in recent years has been rapidly losing viewers and cultural relevance. The comedic talk show format has also been difficult to replicate in an on-demand, streaming world.
He will also confront a vastly different and far more contentious political landscape. Mr. Stewart’s definition of “fake news” during his “Daily Show” years meant something entirely different from what it does today.
Hosting a show for only one night a week also presents challenges for a format that depends on viewers falling into a comfortable nightly habit of tuning in. And like many cable networks these days, Comedy Central, once a hotbed for comedic talent and prime-time series like “Key & Peele” and “Inside Amy Schumer,” has a much weaker lead-in lineup compared with 2015.
Still, “The Daily Show” has continued to maintain relevance even after Mr. Stewart’s 2015 departure. (Since Mr. Noah left “The Daily Show” as host in late 2022, the network has used guest hosts to fill the void.)
Just last week, Mr. Noah’s iteration of the “The Daily Show” took the Emmy for best talk show, besting Mr. Stewart’s Apple TV+ series, Mr. Colbert’s CBS show, Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC late-night show, and Seth Meyers’s “Late Night.” It was widely considered the biggest upset of the night, and an affirmation that “The Daily Show,” at least in the eyes of Emmy voters, is still resonating.
After the show won the Emmy, the former correspondent Roy Wood mouthed “Please hire a host” from the stage.