The real reason you don't hear from Jon Stewart anymore

Jon Stewart left The Daily Show in August 2015, where over the course of his 16-year tenure, he shaped the trajectory of the show's influence and comedy.

His unique brand of sociopolitical commentary and satire was equal parts intelligent, thoughtful, biting, and relevant as it was hilarious, silly, and sarcastic. It helped broaden and shape the minds and world views of his postmodern and Millennial audience.

Under his stewardship, the show won a multitude of awards, and his vision launched the careers of today's top political satirists — including Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Larry Wilmore, and Trevor Noah, among others.

But while his protégés have been killing it, throughout the 2016 election and the beginnings of the Trump era, Stewart's voice has been sorely missed. While no one could begrudge the man for taking a year or two off – all of this begs the question: what exactly has Jon Stewart been up to lately?

Vague plans following Daily Show departure

In February 2015, Stewart made the emotional surprise announcement he was leaving, saying "In my heart I know it is time for someone else [to host the show]." He added, "this show doesn't deserve an even slightly restless host and neither do you."

As for his future, he said, "I don't have any specific plans. Got a lot of ideas. I got a lot of things in my head," before hinting at simply wanting a change of pace, "I'm going to have dinner on a school night with my family, who I have heard from multiple sources are lovely people."

As he later disclosed to The Guardian, hosting the show was "the most perfect job in the world," but "I'm not getting the same satisfaction." At the outpouring of people begging him to stay, he responded, "Honestly, the country will survive."

He gave one final rant to carry us through 2016

On August 6, 2015, Stewart hosted his last show, during which he was surprised and surrounded by countless protégés and correspondents — all of whom ran out to engulf a teary-eyed Stewart in an impromptu massive group hug. The epic send-off ended with Stewart being played out by his favorite musician of all time, Bruce Springsteen.

But among all the goodbyes and festivities, Stewart made one final call to action with his infamous "Bulls**t is everywhere" speech — it's one that stuck with fans throughout the course of the election, and so it bears covering the meat of it.

"The good news is this, bulls**tters have gotten pretty lazy. And their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an 'I Spy' of bulls**t. So I say to you tonight, friends. The best defense against bulls**t is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something."

Jon and his wife Tracey run a sanctuary farm

According to the New York Times, Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey, a licensed vet technician, bought the 12-acre Bufflehead Farm, which sits in Middletown, New Jersey, in 2013. Two years later, they announced the property would become a Farm Sanctuary for sick and abused animals.

That announcement coincided with the release of Tracey's book Do Unto Animals. As Tracey explained their mission, "We're going to build new advocates, new curious learners, and new leaders for this very important movement" (via Mother Nature Network).

The duo also appeared on CBS This Morning to share an exclusive look at the farm, during which Jon seemed perfectly content with his new lifestyle. He admitted that with the flexibility in his schedule, he can take the kids to school, maintain the farm, and write. "It's not like I don't feel productive or creative. But I feel like my life is — now it's, rather than just painting with three colors, I get to have all. I get to get the whole thing now."

He returned to The Daily Show once to shame Congress

After laying low for a few months, Stewart showed up at his old stomping grounds in December 2015 to continue fighting for 9/11 first responders.

That year, the Zadroga Act was set to expire. The healthcare bill "covers medical and other expenses for a long list of conditions that many first responders face as a result of the rescue and recovery efforts" (via Upworthy). In a field piece segment, Stewart went to Washington D.C. to confront those legislators who did not support the re-authorization bill.

As Stewart implored during the filming of this piece, "I think everybody's at the end of their rope, and justifiably so. It's sort of shameful for them to be let down by their own government when they went down there [Ground Zero] without any question whatsoever" (via the Huffington Post).

Indeed, that first responders had to plead their case on television to get the bill passed in 2010 was, in Stewart's words, "insulting and embarrassing for us as a nation." In particular, he called out Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who had stalled on the bill, and encouraged viewers to flood their social media accounts with messages that included the hashtag #WorstResponders to put the pressure on.

And it worked. The following day, McConnell told Politico, "Everybody's for it. It's going to be included."

Jon next guested on David Axelrod's podcast

It wasn't until May 2016 that Stewart made another rare public appearance, this time on David Axelrod's CNN podcast The Axe Files. During the conversation, he shared his first post-retirement thoughts on the election (via Forbes).

As Forbes noted, fans of Stewart "sorely missed his comedy and commentary this election cycle," so his resurgence into the spotlight came as a desperately-needed breath of fresh air for many. And with "true vitriol," he did not hold back.

His questioning of Trump's eligibility to run made headlines when he said, "He has the physical countenance of a man, and a baby's temperament and hands." However, Stewart also called out Clinton's lack of authenticity, saying, "I imagine to be a very bright woman without the courage of her convictions, because I'm not even sure what they are."

He later reprimanded the media's narcissism, corruption, and lack of focus and substance in its election coverage, saying, "The problem is the system is incentivized in all the wrong directions…It can do tremendous damage."

Finally, he attacked Congress' lack of effectiveness, "Why in God's name should that [taking an unpopular stance at the risk of being voted out] be courage? Taking a political stand, and trying to effect legislation." He continued, "What is incumbent on people who think government can make a difference in people's lives, is to make government more efficient. I think that's where the Democrats fail in an enormous way."

He hung out with Stephen Colbert a lot

During the week of the Republican National Convention last July, Stewart gave fans a more official taste of what his election coverage would have looked like had he stayed on The Daily Show.

His first appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert came nearly a year after he left the show, and featured a skit in which Colbert sought out Stewart's help for his election coverage. The Late Show host traveled to Stewart's fictional cabin in the woods (a running joke between the two) to inform him that Trump was running for president. The bit featured many zings at the then-candidate's expense, as well as numerous spit takes. In turn, Stewart helped to resurrect Colbert's conservative alter-ego, "Stephen Colbert".

However, his following appearance just a few days later held a bit more substance. Stewart took over Colbert's Late Show desk to deliver a biting critique of those who bought into the discriminatory, divisive rhetoric on which Trump ran: "You feel that you're this country's rightful owners. There's only one problem with that: This country isn't yours. You don't own it. It never was."

Jon gave Larry Wilmore a heartfelt send-off

Colbert wasn't the only former Daily Show correspondent with whom Stewart visited last summer. He also stopped by during Larry Wilmore's final episode of The Nightly Show.

Wilmore's late night endeavor, for which Stewart was an executive producer (via The Wrap) had sadly been prematurely cut short just prior to the final leg of the election. Stewart dropped in to show his support and to tell Wilmore he loved him. In doing so, he also gave his old friend and colleague some sound advice:

"I have been in situations, in what we call television, where my name has been on the show and they have locked the door and told me, 'Get your sh*t and get out.' And a very wise man [David Letterman] said to me, 'Do not confuse cancellation with failure.' And I took that to heart."

He continued: "Did you resonate with an audience? I would say, not only that, but in an important way — but in a way you don't realize yet, and won't reveal itself for years to come, and it's this — you started a conversation that was not on television when you began… and what you don't realize is that you walk out of this room, and that conversation doesn't end."

He bonded with a tiny horse and colored with Samantha Bee...seriously, he did

With these seemingly random drop-ins, Stewart's public profile began to build again in the summer of 2016. He continued his string of bit appearances on his friends' late night shows with a few more on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

In June, Stewart made his first cameo appearance, during which Bee teased him about the skewed public perception of his animal sanctuary work. After asking advice on how to take care of a tiny horse, she attributed: "I'm pretty sure I heard that you left show business to go and professionally massage livestock." Later in the bit, Stewart asked the horse, "you're white — are you voting for Trump?"

Just after the election, Bee and Stewart confronted the blame game that began immediately after Trump's win. "Right now there's a lot of blaming going on," Bee noted, before listing off the usual suspects — Bernie Sanders, third party supporters, the media, comedians, etc. But, she added, "I think we all know whose fault it is. The Jews, obviously. D*mn you, Jon."

As the show came to a close, Bee's own Daily Show-esque Moment of Zen aired. Stewart was shown sitting outside on some steps, singing and air-drumming while coloring a turkey in a coloring book. As he poked fun at what people at the time deemed to be his hermit-like lifestyle, he said, "I've really turned into quite an odd person" before laughing it off.

The Daily Show (The Book)

The Daily Show (The Book) was released in November 2016 — 16 months after Stewart left the show. Written by journalist Chris Smith, the book is a comprehensive oral history of the show during Stewart's tenure (via the New York Times). As the Hollywood Reporter put it, "Everybody talked — from producers to production assistants to the famous ex-correspondents."

Naturally, Stewart contributed the forward, opening the book with, "My wildest dream for The Daily Show when I started was 'This will be fun. Hopefully we'll do it well.' Success for me would've been feeling like I figured it out. That I got to express the things I wanted to. It was never 'I want this to be a cultural touchstone…but only for a very small portion of America.' And I was hoping to stay on TV longer than nine months this time." It's safe to say he did alright.

It also included a plethora of funny anecdotes, as well as some shocking reveals — most notably that Stewart, well-loved by most, can be cold, "tough and ruthless," as the Hollywood Reporter documented. Stewart later openly admitted, "You'll read about it in the book, I had a really hard time getting over my defensiveness and blind spots about sexism and racism and diversity and all those things. Not because I think I'm an ignorant, racist, sexist person – I just think I'm a person. And I'm a f*cking idiot sometimes" (via the Huffington Post).

An introspective post-election reaction

In Stewart's first post-election interview with CBS This Morning, he called out basically everyone: "I thought Donald Trump disqualified himself at numerous points," he said. "But there is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric."

He continued, "In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don't look at Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country."

Ultimately, in Stewart's view, "it all ties together," but "here's what I would honestly say: I don't believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago. The same country with all its grace and flaws, and volatility, and insecurity, and strength, and resilience exists today as existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama. I feel badly for the people for whom this election will mean more uncertainty and insecurity. But I also feel like this fight has never been easy."

He concluded, "we're fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one's ever done. That's what's exceptional about America."

Jon's post-election Colbert appearances

Stewart made a surprise appearance on the Late Show in January 2017, during which he satirized the newly-inaugurated President Trump and his several consecutive executive orders.

Wearing an over-sized blazer, a red tie that went down to the floor, and a "dead" animal on his head, he addressed the audience: "I, Donald J. Trump am exhausting. It has been 11 days, Stephen…The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public."

He impassioned: "We have never faced this before — purposeful, vindictive chaos. But perhaps therein lies the saving grace of my, Donald J. Trump's, presidency. No one action will be adequate. All actions will be necessary. And if we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less and constitutionally partially intact, then I, Donald J. Trump, will have demonstrated the greatness of America. Just not the way I thought I was gonna."

During Stewart's most recent appearance on the show, he lambasted the media's 24/7 coverage of Trump with a ten-minute rant, "This breakup with Donald Trump has given you, the media, an amazing opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. Instead of worrying about whether Trump is un-American, or if he thinks you're the enemy, or if he's being mean to you, or if he's going to let you go back into the briefings, do something for yourself. Self-improvement! Take up a hobby. I recommend journalism."

What's Next in 2017?

Jon Stewart has clearly maintained a pretty busy, albeit private, schedule throughout his "retirement" from The Daily Show. But who can blame the guy for taking a well-deserved step out of the spotlight?

As John Oliver recently disclosed to Rolling Stone, "You've gotta be able to do a year off. After you've worked at the pace he has, you just physically have to be able to do a year. I mean, he's working on things. So he's publicly quiet, but he's not privately quiet. He's using his brain and working on stuff right now."

Variety confirmed last summer that Stewart signed a four-year production deal with HBO. The upcoming "multi-platform project" will be "an animated parody of a cable news network with an Onion-like portal," according to HBO's programming chief, Casey Bloys.

The show is expected to launch sometime later this year (via Entertainment Weekly). Bloys told the publication, "In terms of Jon Stewart, he really is putting together a whole animation studio. My hope is that it's up and running and putting out content in first quarter of '17." He added, "I think it's more important, now more than ever, that we have voices like that [Stewart and Oliver] who will parse the information and call out what's going on."

According to Decider, Stewart's staff began testing out material in New Jersey recently. And with Stewart's fans more eager than ever to have him back on TV, that HBO premiere date cannot come soon enough!