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Though his early career didn’t exactly hint at it, Jon Stewart has become an icon for anti-partisan politics for his many years hosting Comedy Central’s Daily Show. Stewart’s popularity stems from his ability to wring legitimacy out of satire, which is something that David Letterman has mastered during his years at the Late Show and NBC’s Late Night before it. At one time, Stewart’s name was tossed into the mix in internet discussions over who should replace Letterman after his imminent retirement, but Stewart wanted nothing to do with it.
For a fascinating interview with Rolling Stone about his upcoming directorial debut Rosewater (and other things), Stewart shared the reason behind his lack of interest in being seated behind a broadcast network’s late night desk, and it has a lot to do with his glorious past.
I had done a show like that 20 years ago. The people spoke. They felt that was something I should not be doing. They felt, in fact, that I should be locked out of the building. It also wasn’t something that I felt necessarily comfortable doing. I don't think I'm particularly suited for it.
The show he’s talking about is MTV’s fairly shortlived The Jon Stewart Show, a truly excellent and freeballing series that aired 160 episodes from 1993 to 1995. Stewart’s acerbity was prominent even then (at least as far as I can remember), and he had some truly compelling guests, most importantly from the music side of things. (Insert suspenders-pulling and a comment about how MTV used to play music.) Oddly enough, Letterman was the final guest of The Jon Stewart Show, and you can watch the appearance below, which starts at around 6:00.
I loved the show, and would hardly consider it a failure of any kind after all these years. After all, he now has a massive fanbase that would certainly follow him anywhere he went, even if he had to extract some of the political material. But no, I guess we’ll never get to see that. He’s currently staying pleasantly mum about his future with The Daily Show, with his contract expiring next year. It would be hard to imagine a pop culture landscape without Stewart rooted into it.
Incidentally, Stewart predictably had kind words to say about fellow Comedy Central pundit Stephen Colbert putting on the Late Show duds at some point in the future. He said Colbert “will have a very eclectic show” and that he “can elevate the form and bring oxygen to it.” Unlike Stewart, Colbert is mostly known for an escalated persona, which he won’t be bringing to CBS. It’s going to be interesting to say the least.
I’m pretty sure I’d be watching even if Jon Stewart took over The Dr. Oz Show, so I might be biased here. Would you guys still want to watch him host a more traditional late night talk show, even if he wants nothing to do with it and we’re forcing him to do it?