On Monday, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” made its long-awaited return to in-studio taping with a suitably high-profile guest: Colbert’s former Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart.
Stewart, who previously hosted “The Daily Show” and inspired “The Colbert Report” spinoff years later, riffed with Colbert about vaccine science and the renewed interest in theories regarding whether the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab.
“I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to science,” Stewart said. “Science has, in many ways, helped ease the suffering of this pandemic, which was more than likely caused by science. There’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China. What do we do? Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab. The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird.”
Stewart jokingly compared the coronavirus outbreak to “an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania.”
“What do you think happened? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a steam shovel made it with a cocoa bean,” Stewart said. “Or it’s the fucking chocolate factory. Maybe that’s it.”
Stewart’s comments did receive pushback from those wary of peddling unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus. Colbert played the straight man to Stewart and asked whether Stewart was working for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has lied and spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, and joked that they stopped filming while Stewart was mid-bit.
Stewart also riffed on other aspects of the pandemic during his “The Late Show” appearance, including his dismay that the world’s response to pandemics — wear a mask and wash your hands — hadn’t changed much in the last 100 years.
“I was really hoping that in 1918 they’d be, like, ‘Drink a tincture of mercury and butterfly juice,'” Stewart said. “I was hoping it’d be some bizarre thing, like, ‘We’ve come a long way, baby.’ It’s the exact same [response].”
Stewart retired from hosting “The Daily Show” in 2015. In addition to appearing as a guest on several episodes of “The Late Show,” he wrote and directed the 2020 political comedy film “Irresistible” and will return to television in late 2021 via “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” a current affairs series that will stream on Apple TV+.
Stewart’s latest appearance on “The Late Show” can be viewed below: