Did you catch John Oliver on The Daily Show last night? The longtime correspondent took over for Stewart for the first show of his three-month substitution and, well, he didn’t suck! It speaks to The Daily Show‘s strong writers that for many fans — save for an accent — there wasn’t a huge difference in performance.
Of course, it’s hardly fair to compare Oliver’s one 30-minute show to Stewart’s standard. Stewart has had 14 years to develop the smart and snarky on-air persona we all know, love and already miss. But that’s where the mighty Internet comes in. Thanks to the World Wide Web, viewers can look back on a time when Stewart was the new kid on the block, specifically January 1999. That Stewart sure is a different (and, man, noticeably younger-looking!) guy than the man who regularly yells at fans about Fox News circa 2013. The show back then was goofier, more irreverent (there was an interview with the munchkins from Wizard of Oz! For real!) and, I guess, less important-feeling?
Oliver’s Daily Show With Jon Stewart feels more like The Daily Show than Stewart’s first outing did, despite one Jo(h)n’s presence over another. Check them both out below (and brace yourself for a whole host of Monica Lewinsky jokes!) and then let’s discuss.
1. The First Political Joke:
Oliver: News clip: Published reports say that it can hold five zetabites of data. “Zeta bites? You’ve got to be careful with those. I think that’s how Michael Douglas got throat cancer.”
Stewart: “President Clinton’s impeachment trial begins Thursday, and the most important issue facing the United States Senate is how can it take a pointless, tawdry trial whose outcome has already been decided and make it last six hilarious months.”
Advantage: Oliver, and not just for his fist-pump of triumph.
2. The Supporting Players:
Oliver: The correspondents — all of them — teamed up for a segment ostensibly about the NSA but really about a “foreigner” getting the hosting job over them. The high point goes to Jessica Williams for her “inability to break out from under the glass ceiling” crack.
Stewart: Young Stephen Colbert gave viewers the latest updates from the “upcoming Bill Clinton impeachment hearings,” which is one of the most 1999 things you can possibly say.
Advantage: Stewart. (An ageless Stephen Colbert wins by default.)
3. The Interview:
Oliver: Interviewed Seth Rogen, and — as EW’s Melissa Maerz noted in her reaction piece — he seemed to run out of things to say, as he notes he has no experience interviewing celebrities.
Stewart: Interviewed Michael J. Fox on a couch and the two have a jovial, smart chat about Spin City. My, how times have changed.
If this whole little look-back to 1999 has taught us anything, it’s that the old saying about comedy equaling tragedy plus time is certainly true. So never fear, people who are concerned about PRISM: You may groan-laugh now, but you’re going to double over in 2028 when you re-watch Oliver. Maybe?