More than 2 million people caught Jon Stewart‘s return to The Daily Show last night after taking most of the summer off. That’s a 24% improvement over the Comedy Central show’s year-to-date average with Stewart-hosted episodes (1.63 million). It’s Stewart’s second-best number this year. About 640,000 of last night’s crowd was aged 18-34 — the show’s target audience. That’s 22% better than Stewart episodes have averaged this year. In his final two weeks of original episodes before leaving to direct his first feature film Rosewater, Stewart averaged 1.415 million Daily Show viewers.
Some perspective: Daily Show’s biggest audience ever happened in October 2008 when presidential candidate Barack Obama was Stewart’s guest and the show clocked 3.6 million viewers, beating Michelle Obama’s appearance a few weeks earlier by about 600,000 viewers. It was the first time the show had ever cracked 3 mil. In ’10, Obama became the first sitting president to visit the show; 2.8 million tuned in at a time when the show was averaging 1.9 million.
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“I’ve missed you so much — you don’t know what it’s like out there in the real world. Nobody applauds every stupid fucking thing you do!” Stewart said in his return last night. He’d been gone for a good chunk of the summer — in Jordan shooting his film — showing telltale signs of a comic who has been through a life-changing experience and feels he should be doing something more serious. In his absence, John Oliver filled in, averaging 1.3 million viewers with no big drop-off, indicating viewers were curious to watch the show’s Senior British Correspondent try out Stewart’s chair, and liked what they saw.