If you enjoyed A Daily Show, you might not have been looking forward to the return of scripted Jon. Today’s opening segment went some way to underline the contribution a roomful of writers can make. It didn’t start promisingly, but it certainly built: the millions of people who read about Jon’s performance; the many ways of saying it was the lowest-rated Oscars ever; from basic-cable quality to basic-cable audiences; ‘You can’t control an audience.’ ‘You certainly can’t’. Part of the joy of the routine was imagining the one-upmanship of the writers’ room as they pitched all these ideas, and no doubt many, many more. The strengths of hearing from a variety of comedic voices were amply demonstrated. As Jon acknowledged, the writers enjoy writing these segments more than anything else.
Unfortunately, the cup that was the rest of the episode didn’t overflow to such an extent. Structurally, it couldn’t really. The post-absence recap of the presidential race necessitated the ‘clip, one-liner, clip’ format, while Jon is never really free in interviews with dignitaries like Albright to break from the platitudes about North Korea. Pleasantly, the interview picked up at the end when Jon loosened up. Challenging Albright on her support for Clinton, he made the salient points that deserved an answer without the stifling respect he had for her opinions on foreign policy. Whether or not the reverence, the playfulness or both were scripted, it was what the Daily Show does best. As Jon reluctantly conceded with a giggle, ‘Oh, we’re phenomenal’.