Culture

Jon Stewart Regrets Trying to Live Up to 'The Evisceration Expectation'

Jon Stewart performs at Stand Up For Heroes, presented by the New York Comedy Festival and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

It can be tough for pretty much anybody to run a self-inventory. To work on yourself. To figure out where you went wrong and how to fix it. But it must be even tougher for the rich and famous. Whatever they’re doing must be working, right? For example, Jon Stewart became incredibly wealthy and successful by telling liberals exactly what they wanted to hear, every single day, for 15 years. But then Donald Trump got elected anyway! How the hell did that happen?

Now that Stewart has a few years’ distance from his days hosting The Daily Show — and now that he has a new movie to promote — he just talked to the NYT about what’s happened to America and who he blames.

Can you guess who he blames?

Fox, and Bill O’Reilly in particular, used to be your great foils. Now the emblematic Fox personalities are Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. What does their ascendance represent for the network? I think they’re just the next level. As things progress, to get the same dopamine hit, you have to push it further. Although O’Reilly pushed it pretty far. The question was always, Why would you talk to him? Why do you have him on the show if you can’t destroy him? If you want to talk about the worst legacy of “The Daily Show,” it was probably that.

That everyone you spoke to who you disagreed with had to be Jim Cramer’d? That’s right. That’s the part of it that I probably most regret. Those moments when you had a tendency, even subconsciously, to feel like, “We have to live up to the evisceration expectation.” We tried not to give something more spice than it deserved, but you were aware of, say, what went viral. Resisting that gravitational force is really hard.

In other words, he did the same thing he called out Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for doing 15 years ago.

But Stewart isn’t giving back any of the money he earned by being an enormous hypocrite, of course. Words are much cheaper, and none of his friends or fans will ever hold him to them.

You can’t really blame the guy for living in denial, though. He’s as responsible as anybody for our current moment, where news and entertainment are interchangeable. All the comedians want to be journalists, all the journalists want to be comedians, and now both industries are completely intolerable. They’re all so busy trying to dunk on the president they hate that they’ve given up trying to say anything informative and/or funny. That certainly isn’t in spite of Jon Stewart.

Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf, though. Maybe his new movie is funny…

Um.

Well, you can’t always tell the quality of a movie by the trailer. Rose Byrne is usually good, right?