Welcome Back, Writers!

The wind beneath Stewart/Colbert's wings blows again

About half a minute into last night’s Daily Show opening monologue, Jon Stewart interrupted himself. “Wait a minute…words in the prompter? Script on my desk? Vending machine upstairs out of Funyuns? THE WRITERS ARE BACK!”

As the audience exploded into applause and cheers, Stewart did a celebratory dance in his chair.

“It is no longer A Daily Show,” Stewart said, referring to the show’s during-the-strike name-change; “it is once again The Daily Show! We’re back, baby!”

Yes, they are. And hallelujah. After (a poetic) one hundred days of striking, the Writers Guild of America agreed, on Tuesday, to a contract deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The Daily Show and Colbert Report writers returned yesterday evening, and—presto!—one of the best-oiled machines of media criticism was back to skewer Punditry’s Inanity.

It was back in time, for example, to highlight footage of Andrea Mitchell, punditing about post-Potomac Primary Obamamentum, making this gem of a point: “Obama made these amazing inroads tonight. He proved that white men can jump…to a black candidate.”

To which Stewart responded: “Must…top…Andrea Mitchell. Yes: Obama’s camp is no longer…waiting to exhale.”

Over at The Colbert Report, He of the Silent T welcomed his writers back to the show one by one, handing them, as they ran onstage to the strains of “God Bless America” and the whoops and cheers of the audience, an honorary pencil to commemorate their return. Mixed among them was a smattering of celebrities: Tiki Barber, Kevin Bacon, Mikhail Barishnykov (“Misha!” Colbert greeted him), a baseball-headed Mr. Met, and—strangest/randomest/most ironic of all, given the show’s focus on media criticism—Judy Miller. (“Get to work, you!” Colbert told the infamous reporter, ostensibly—and hopefully—with irony.)

Besides being a victory for definite articles, number-2 pencils and strike beards (many of them still growing strong despite the strike’s conclusion), last night was also—not to be too dramatic about it, but—a victory for media criticism itself. While Stewart and Colbert have been holding their own—impressively, inspiredly, and often hilariously—sans writers, Indecision ‘08 wasn’t the same without them. Stew-bert’s animatronic eagles may fly high, but the writers’ behind-the-scenes machinations really are the wind—and the wit—beneath their wings.

Welcome back, guys. We’ve missed you.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.