What Can We Expect from Jon Stewart on HBO?


When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show this summer, nobody knew exactly where he would end up. Some guessed he would just retire and enjoy his riches, while others thought he would direct more movie projects after he took time off to work on his film Rosewater. It turned out that we were all wrong. HBO signed him for a four year deal, but the details of what exactly he’ll be doing for HBO are cryptic at best.

The HBO press release states that Jon’s first project will be, “viewing current events through his unique prism. Working with the pioneering cloud graphics company OTOY Inc., he is developing new technology that will allow him to produce timely short-form digital content, which will be refreshed on HBO NOW multiple times throughout the day.”

What exactly is Jon’s “unique prism?” What is short-form digital content? What is OTOY Inc.? These are all valid questions considering the press release doesn’t go into any further explanations on any of these points. OTOY’s Twitter bio states the following: “The future of holographic rendering is in the cloud. OTOY develops technology that delivers unlimited compute and rendering power to any app on any device.”

After reading that, I still don’t know much more about OTOY other than the fact that it sounds like a precursor to Skynet. But the big question is how can “the future of holographic rendering in the cloud” aid Jon Stewart in producing political satire. Let’s speculate!

Let’s focus on the term “short-form” for a second. HBO doesn’t use that term to describe any of its 30-minute programs, so it’s safe to assume that Stewart’s next project is not going to be similar to, say, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. We also know that it’s not going to air on the traditional HBO cable channel. The deal specifically states that this will be digital content that is refreshed multiple times a day on HBO Now and HBO Go.

Perhaps we can expect something like a Daily Show lite. Stewart can produce a bit about a current event, and then quickly and easily make it accessible on HBO’s digital channels. So at the end of any given day, someone can fire up HBO Go and see what Stewart made fun of that day. I think of it like podcast-style bites of Stewart’s comedy. Maybe it will have a set schedule, and maybe it won’t. Working within digital avenues means that it doesn’t have to have a set schedule. He’s able to produce something when something is worth producing.

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One thing that quickly comes to mind is that it’s a bummer that Stewart is going to miss out on all the Presidential Election season madness. Election season is political satire paydirt. Stewart could make easy waves by chiming in on Trump, Clinton and the rest of the gang, especially after being away for so long. Imagine digital content like being able to tune into a live Stewart as he watches and comments on the republican debate. It would be a political comedy dream. Unfortunately, this deal was just announced this week, which means the final product is still several months away. I don’t expect to see anything from Stewart until next year at the earliest. Maybe he’ll make it in time to weigh in on the end of the general election.

Maybe Jon Stewart is going to usher in a new way to connect with audiences through HBO and new technology. Maybe he’s going to be a part of a new groundbreaking brand of political commentary. Maybe HBO is just going to post a bunch of his Vines and Instagram posts on its digital avenues. We don’t know, but hopefully it’s not the latter. Whatever Jon and HBO are planning, they have our attention.