On Monday night, correspondent John Oliver made his debut as anchor for Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart is currently on hiatus from the beloved comedy news program to make an attempt at film directing, and Oliver, the 36-year-old Englishman will temporarily replace him.
During every segment of the first episode, Oliver and company poked fun at the conspicuous transition. “ … this is weird.” Oliver said, right off the bat. “This is even weird for me, and this is my real accent.” He went on to bemoan how the Prism scandal was his first piece of news to cover, far flung from the soft, summer news he thought he would cover. The other correspondents berated him out of jealousy. When the show’s guest, Seth Rogen came out, they cut to a segment wherein Rogen is in the green room questioning Oliver’s credibility.
These shenanigans have yet to wear thin. How else is a comedy show program going to portray this decidedly uncomfortable situation? The they played musical chairs behind desk, it was just called the The Daily Show and Craig Kilborn was the host. A young Stewart struggled at first to gain traction. Fourteen years later, the writers and viewership are at least a little bit lost without him.
The dead panning, the “what did I just do?” expression while mugging to the camera, and host of other re-occurring comedic moves, Stewart’s shtick, if you will, is a lynchpin that bonds each show to the one before it. Oliver cannot imitate this physical aspect of Stewart’s appeal, and won’t have the time to organically create his own.
To be frank, all of this awkwardness is a good thing. If this last episode is any indication, there is endless amounts of meta to be mined from the temporary regime change. And, in effect, this a bit The Colbert Report could never do.