Five years after his departure from The Daily Show, Jon Stewart gave an extensive interview to the New York Times. The former host discussed his upcoming film, Irresistible, police brutality and the 2020 election.
Out of the spotlight since he left The Daily Show in 2015, Stewart described his return to the public eye — particularly in a tumultuous year like 2020 — like “showing up to a plane crash with a chocolate bar.” “There’s tragedy everywhere, and you’re like, ‘’Uh, does anybody want chocolate?’” he told the Times‘ David Marchese. “It feels ridiculous. But what doesn’t feel ridiculous is to continue to fight for nuance and precision and solutions.”
Early on in the interview, he addressed the police killing of George Floyd: “I’d like to say I’m surprised by what happened to him, but I’m not,” he said. “This is a cycle, and I feel that in some ways, the issue is that we’re addressing the wrong problem. We continue to make this about the police — the how of it. How can they police? Is it about sensitivity and de-escalation training and community policing? All that can make for a less-egregious relationship between the police and people of color.”
“But the how isn’t as important as the why, which we never address,” he continued. “The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation. But if we don’t address the anguish of a people, the pain of being a people who built this country through forced labor — people say, ‘I’m tired of everything being about race.’ Well, imagine how [expletive] exhausting it is to live that.”
Stewart also attacks Trump and his mishandling of the pandemic but doesn’t think the question is about how it will affect his chances of being reelected. “That’s the question the media asks,” he said. “What they should be focused on is, here’s what happens when you hollow out the pandemic-response team. You have to go after the case of competence and anti-corruption. The media wants to prosecute the case of offensiveness. That doesn’t matter.”
Despite his lengthy and passionate answers in the Q&A, the former host makes it clear that he doesn’t miss being regularly part of the conversation (“I consider a career to be a conversation”). He also praises his successor, Trevor Noah, for continuing to elevate The Daily Show in “ways that I couldn’t have.”
“I think everybody would like it to be as neat as, ‘I’ve been thinking about this subject, and here is the manner in which I present it to you — my masterpiece,’” he said. “But this is all part of a conversation that I started having with audiences years ago. The enemy is noise. The goal is clarity.”