By Leo Sands, The Washington Post

Updated: 1 hour ago Published: 1 hour ago

Jon Stewart returned to his old seat behind the desk of “The Daily Show” on Monday evening after a nearly nine-year hiatus, resuming his role as the late night show’s host just in time for the 2024 presidential election.

Stewart did not spare President Biden or former president Donald Trump from pointed jokes – spotlighting how the front-runners in both parties are 81 and 77, respectively. And that 2024 is shaping up to look a lot like 2020.

He displayed a suggested slogan for 2024 election coverage: “What the f#@k are we doing?” Alternatively, he offered: “Indecision 2024: Antiques Roadshow.”

“We are not suggesting neither man is vibrant, productive or even capable. But they are both stretching the limits of being able to handle the toughest job in the world,” Stewart said. “It is not crazy to think that the oldest people in the history of the country to ever run for president might have some of these challenges.”

While Biden and Trump would each be the oldest president by the end of their term if elected, previous elections also saw some older candidates, such as former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who were both 78 while running in 2020.

Greeting a cheering studio audience, Stewart promised he would use his return as host to delve into politics, technology, and “maybe something a little lighter: Israel-Palestine.”

“The next nine months or so – and maybe more than that depending on the coup schedule – are gonna suck,” Stewart said, in a glib reference to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. “On the plus side, I’m told that at some point, the sun will run out of hydrogen,” Stewart said at one point.

In particular, the late night host zeroed in on a line in last week’s report by special counsel Robert K. Hur that described the president as “an elderly man with a poor memory,” mocking also the White House’s efforts to then reassure voters of Biden’s fitness for office.

“My memory is fine,” Biden said Thursday, responding angrily to questioning of his mental fitness. “I’m the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started,” he said. At the same news conference, Biden mistakenly referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi as the president of Mexico during a discussion about facilitating aid into Gaza. “Geography buffs might have noticed that Gaza and Mexico do not share a border,” Stewart quipped.

Stewart defended his swipes at Biden – which came thick and fast – as an exercise in his democratic duty. “The stakes of this election don’t make Donald Trump’s opponent less subject to scrutiny,” he said. “It actually makes him more subject to scrutiny.”

Stewart also criticized Biden’s foreign policy, challenging the president on the language he used to characterize Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Last week, Biden said Israel’s military offensive was “over the top” – marking his sharpest rebuke of Israel yet.

“I like how Biden describes Israel’s incessant bombing of civilians the same way my mother describes the Super Bowl halftime show: ‘It was a little much,’” Stewart said in response. Gaza’s Health Ministry reports that more than 28,000 people have been killed in the enclave. Israel launched the war after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack that killed around 1,200 people.

After Biden’s campaign announced over the weekend that it was joining TikTok in an effort to appeal to younger voters, Stewart said the president’s first clip seemed to have the reverse effect.

In a series of quick-fire answers to questions about the Super Bowl, Biden declined to “choose” between footballer siblings Jason Kelce and Travis Kelce, who play for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs respectively. He said his favorite Kelce was “Momma Kelce” instead. “I understand she makes great chocolate chip cookies,” Biden said in the uploaded video.

“How do you go on TikTok and end up looking older?” Stewart wondered aloud in response.

Stewart will headline the show’s popular Monday night slot throughout the 2024 election cycle, with rotating hosts throughout the rest of the week. He previously hosted the show from 1999 to 2015. During that time, the show transformed the late night comedy landscape, won 24 Emmys and frequently went viral on social media. Last year, Comedy Central said that the show’s next permanent host will be announced in 2024, filling a seat left vacant by Trevor Noah since December 2022.

Stewart pointed out that it’s not just the presidential candidates who have aged. “Look at me,” he said. “Look what time hath wrought. Give the kids a treat of the lunar surface here,” he said beckoning the camera to zoom in on his face.

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