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A different ‘Daily Show’ for Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart was back Monday night for the first time since the Hollywood writers strike began, but he took care to draw a clear distinction between the show he was returning with and the show he hosted until two months ago.

“‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ is a show we do with our very creative team of field producers and correspondents and studio people and, of course, our writers,” he said with pointed irony. “From now on, until the end of the strike, we’ll be doing ‘A Daily Show with Jon Stewart.’ But not ‘THE Daily Show.”’

Fans of Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report” had awaited their return to the air with eagerness matched by curiosity: How would these funnymen deliver topical satire while stripped of their writers?

That, of course, is the challenge facing “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” which have been out of production since the writers strike began nine weeks ago, and are now resuming with their writers still off the job.

Though both Comedy Cental late-night series have always largely been scripted, that would now violate strike rules of the Writers Guild of America. Even Stewart and Colbert, as guild members, are apparently barred from writing anything.

But helping fill each half-hour, as usual, will be interview segments.

Stewart’s guest was Ronald Seeber, a Cornell University professor and expert on conflict resolution, with whom Stewart chatted the second half of his show.

Guests on “The Colbert Reports” were New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and The Atlantic magazine’s Andrew Sullivan. GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was expected to appear on “Colbert” Wednesday.

Waiting in line to see Monday’s taping of “The Daily Show,” New Jersey teacher Scott Gamble called himself “a huge fan of Jon Stewart’s. He generally has the best election coverage on the air.”

Meanwhile, Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America East, was among about 15 picketers gathered outside the Manhattan studio of “The Daily Show.”

Winship said the union’s quarrel wasn’t with Stewart or Colbert, but “that Viacom and Comedy Central will not yet make a fair and responsible contract” allowing the hosts “to get back their writers.”

Also on the picket line, Adam Brooks — who wrote and directed the upcoming feature “Definitely, Maybe” — said: “We’re trying to send a message that ’The Daily Show’ and ’Stephen Colbert’ are better shows with writers than without writers.”

The strike, which hinges on Internet revenue among other issues, began Nov. 5.