Why Jon Stewart Really Almost Quit 'The Daily Show'

Thirteen years of history might not have happened, because of jerks, the host revealed at a recent fundraiser.

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Jon Stewart has revealed that he almost left The Daily Show because his holdover staff initially refused to take it the direction he wanted — as in, more satirical than Craig Kilborn's fratty local news-style show. Think of what might not have been: without Stewart, we might understand George W. Bush a lot differently. We would not have been inspired to do Fox News supercuts on YouTube. We would not have Stephen Colbert. And Stewart explained that 13 years of history might not have happened: because of jerks.

Stewart took the gig in 1999, but didn't comprehend what he was in for: "What I did not realize is, a lot of the people who worked there were assholes," he said at the Wellmont Theatre in New Jersey during a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival Friday night. Stewart explained to Stephen Colbert that there was massive resistance to change, as Third Beat's Sharilyn Johnson reports:

"I had, before taking [the job], some conversations with the powers that be there about the direction I thought we could move the show…. I wanted it to be satirical in the classic sense of the word, not the Spy magazine sense of the word where you just add adjectives like 'pepperpot'..."

He thought the staff understood his ideas. He was wrong:

"I walk in the door, into a room with the writers and producers, and the first thing they say is 'this isn't some MTV bullshit'…. And then I was told not to change the jokes or improvise."

It took two and a half years for the "natural winnowing process" to purge The Daily Show of those "assholes," he said. Let that be a lesson, kids: it pays to have a thick skin and to wait out the jerks. The future of America might depend on it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.