Farewell to Bush jokes

A few answers from Jon Stewart

Can Jon Stewart still bring the funny once George W. Bush leaves the White House?

Can Jon Stewart still bring the funny once George W. Bush leaves the White House?

Adam Bulger is a writer for an alternative weekly in Hartford, Connecticut.

It’s official. According to a 2007 Pew poll, Jon Stewart is one of the five most-respected broadcast journalists in America. It doesn’t seem to matter that he began his career not as a sleeves-rolled-up, coffee-swilling print journalist, but as a comedian.

Will it be difficult to adjust to comedy in a post-Bush world?

As a comedian, as a person, as a citizen, as a mammal—in all of those areas, I am looking forward to the end of the Bush administration with every fiber of my being.

You’re tired of the “subliminable” jokes?

Yeah, there are times when you play on the lack of erudite commentary from the President. But that’s not the heart of what we do. I am sick of deconstructing their propaganda, because it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been. It’s just repeating something over and over again until we believe it and we hope that you believe it.

Some people are saying that satire might be more difficult under an Obama administration. Do you think that’s true?

I think that the satire of what that is would be tough. But certainly the interplay between that idealism and the established cynicism would work for satire. If someone was to introduce hope and idealism into our political system, I think the tension that would create in other areas would certainly be ripe. You would think that if you bring oxygen to the organism, the organism lives. But there may be other organisms in there that thrive in darkness and in a more anaerobic environment. Watching those creatures writhe will always be interesting.

Larry King asked you on his show if it would be terrible for you as a comedian if everything was good.

I was a little stunned by the question. It was a little crazy, the idea that I absolutely would cheer for the destruction of mankind if it would give me three to four minutes of jokes every night. But to be fair to Larry King, I don’t think he was really paying attention. It was more like, “How long do we have left in this segment?”

That describes the last two decades of his career, doesn’t it?

(Laughs.) Don’t mess with the King, baby. You mess with the bull, you get the suspenders.

When [Supreme Court Justice] Antonin Scalia called your show “childish,” did that smart at all?

I can say this: He’s childish. And shut up. No, that doesn’t bother me. It does bother me when Antonin Scalia says he doesn’t want to discuss cases like Bush v. Gore anymore because, you know, we should just get over it. That upsets me more than comments that he makes about our show. You can make a better case that our show is childish than he doesn’t have to discuss Supreme Court decisions he’s made.

Do you see what you just did? You took on the appearance of childishness to make an astute, well-reasoned point. That’s something you do on The Daily Show all the time, and that’s why it bothers me, as a fan, that he referred to the show as childish.

Here’s the difference: I’m thinking about him, but he’s not thinking about me. What he said was reflective of nothing other than the glibness. And in some ways it reflects the seriousness with which he should take our show, which is not at all. What we wish he took more seriously are the decisions he made.

You’ve been criticized for trying to have it both ways, acting as a media critic and then retreating by saying you’re just telling jokes.

I think that stems from how my interviews don’t live up to the standards I ask of news people. And what I’d say in response to that is, “Why should I do their fucking jobs?” I have a job, and my job is on Comedy Central. If I took a job at CNN, I think I’d have to have a different perspective on what I do. But I don’t do a news show.