Jon Stewart during the taping of the "Axe Files" in Chicago
The University of Chicago Institute of Politics
Jon Stewart during the taping of the "Axe Files" in Chicago

Story highlights

Jon Stewart is no longer hosting a daily news satire show, but he weighed in on 2016 during a taping of the "Axe Files" podcast

Stewart had harsh words for the media and for candidates on both sides of the aisle

Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. This episode includes strong language that some might find offensive

CNN —  

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now, from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and CNN, the Axe files, with your host, David Axelrod.

DAVID AXELROD: Oh, can I say…

JON STEWART: Now you can say, this is how Jews meet all the time. When people aren’t paying attention, we sneak into churches and just chat.

AXELROD: That theme song, by the way, was actually the original John D. Rockefeller theme music. So…

STEWART: Yet, you got to be a rich (inaudible)..

AXELROD: …(Inaudible)…

STEWART: …to have your own theme music.

AXELROD: Oh yes. So, Jon, I have to ask you? Where you been man?


AXELROD: Yes, there’s a lot going on out here?

STEWART: I’ve been in line. I was out in line, out front.

AXELROD: Do you wake up ever and say to yourself that this was some kind of big celestial joke on you that you announce your retirement from the Daily Show and I see when you did you said it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this election year. You had done four others. How’s that working for you now?

STEWART: Well, I mean, I think we talk about it as though it’s something incredibly different, but in truth, how different is it, really? I mean, media is, as usual, focused on the wrong things and advocating responsibility for the general filtration of toxicity. You have enormous amounts of money flowing into crazy people who are channeling populace of years past. So, I don’t, you know, if you took Sarah Palin’s head and jammed onto Donald Trump’s body, would it make any more sense? Probably not.

AXELROD: Look a little weird though, I think.

STEWART: I don’t know that it would look any weirder.

AXELROD: Um, yeah, on that point, you once said, “I assume there are bad actors in society. Its inherent politicians would be disingenuous. I assume monkeys are going to throw sh–. I get angry with people who don’t go ‘bad monkey’ or…

STEWART: Wait, I said that?

AXELROD: …create a distraction that allows it to be continued unabated.” How responsible is the media for Donald Trump?

STEWART: Oh, I don’t – Look, listen. I don’t necessarily believe that a full court press on his untruthinness would necessarily change it. I mean, he’s not – he was voted for, but I do think he is, generally, the conclusion to years of – he makes sense if you view it through the prism of talk radio. I like to drive, and so I listen to talk radio and it is 24/7 of ‘your country is being taken away from you.’ As far as I can tell, the conservative side on the right side, they feel an ownership over America. They are the stewards of America. They are its forbearers…

AXELROD: Was it (inaudible)?

STEWART: Exactly. Republicans, conservatives, love America. They just hate like 50 percent of the people living in it. So, in general…

AXELROD: Isn’t part of their concern that that 50 percent is becoming, or whatever percent, is becoming a greater – we’re becoming a much more diverse country?

STEWART: Sure. So yeah, no nativism – look, this is – it’s not as though this is inherent only to this country as well. Globalization has created this strange pushback throughout the entire world. You see a lot of countries retreating into nativism…

AXELROD: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: …into that type of really…

Stewart, pre-beard, hosting The Daily Show in 2015
Brad Barket/Getty Images
Stewart, pre-beard, hosting The Daily Show in 2015

AXELROD: Like there are Trump-like characters all over Europe and different country.

STEWART: Yes. Yes. It’s very similar to – I don’t know if you ever saw “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – very similar. But no, in some ways it’s a natural reaction to fear. Now, if you have that fear stoked on a daily basis, at an incredibly high pitch – and this is not – We really need to do something about this country; we’re facing some difficult problems. This is you are run by a tyrant; he is going to take away your rights. We are falling. There are rapists and murders at the border coming to kill you. If that’s what you’ve been fed and that’s what you’re buying into, Donald Trump makes more sense than anybody else out there because he’s going, “Great, let’s build – the Visigoths are out the gate. Let’s build a f—ing wall and not let it…” It makes total sense. What wouldn’t make sense are the general republican leadership going, “There are Visigoths at the wall, they are here to kill you, let’s try and not pass a new budget resolution.” You know that’s…


STEWART: Their rhetoric has never matched their action. Donald Trump is saying, “Oh, that’s your rhetoric? Then yeah…

AXELROD: Although, you know, there is…

STEWART: …let’s build a wall.”

AXELROD: …there’s a weird paradox in both his message and their attacks, which is, on the one hand they say, “Well, the dictator is encroaching and threatening. On the other hand, their critique of the President is that he’s feckless.” And it’s hard to be a feckless dictator unless you’re…

STEWART: Are you suggesting…

AXELROD: …Groucho Marx and Duck Soup.

STEWART: Are you suggesting, sir, that there me be slight cognitive dissonance?


STEWART: Is that what you’re suggesting? Because…


STEWART: …will not sit here…

AXELROD: …some…

STEWART: …and be told – Look, I don’t even know that Donald Trump is eligible to be President, and that’s not a birther thing, that’s – I don’t know. Look, I’m not a constitutional scholar, so I can’t necessarily say, but can you – are you eligible to run if you are a man-baby or a baby-man? See, I don’t know what the – look, I don’t know, and again, I’m not here to be politically incorrect. If they’re referred to as man-baby Americans, but he is a man-baby. He has the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament and hands. So, to have that together – I mean, for God sakes, I should sp– so, I do have a history with the man, and so in effort of full disclosure, we made fun of him and I think we were afraid it was a boiled ham and a wig or something. Who knows? And so he tweeted at me because, as you know, great leaders…


STEWART: …tweet…


STEWART: …late at night. In fact, I remember, Lincoln’s Gettysburg tweets going after he delivered…

AXELROD: That’s why their dress was so short he had to turn it under for you.

STEWART: Yes. Well, after the Gettysburg Address, he tweeted out, emancipate this motherf—er. So Donald Trump tweeted John Leibowitz. He thought, he’s going to use my birth name…

AXELROD: Was your name.

STEWART: …which is Liebowitz. Yes. Jon Stewart Leibowitz is my – Jonathan Stewart Liebowitz is my full name. he was going to tweet that and then he tweeted out, “Be proud of your heritage. Don’t run away from who you are. By the way, he’s overrated” or something along those lines.

AXELROD: Incisive.

STEWART: It was very incisive. And so we thought, “Well geeze, let’s answer.” So, we tweeted back to him, Donald Trump’s real name, which I don’t know if you even this, is F— Face Von Clownstick. And…

AXELROD: The research you guys must do on that show is unbelievable.

STEWART: Yeah. We have people – Lexus Nexus will tell you that. And so, we wanted to know why he was running away from the Von Clownstick heritage and we got into this huge fight and this…

AXELROD: Did he sue you? He tends to sue for things like that.

STEWART: Yeah, I mean, I’m just – I don’t know that a man-baby can be president. He’s – character is destiny and he is the most thin-skinned individual – and look, you’ve been around politicians, you know they’re thin-skinned. You know President Obama, for all his qualities that you love, gets angry and I’ve borne the…

AXELROD: Irritated, I would say.

STEWART: …brunt of that, at times.

AXELROD: Yes. I’ve heard.

STEWART: Yes. But, I don’t know that he has – and they keep saying, which I think is the most wonderful thing, “Don’t worry, when he becomes president, he’s going to be totally mature.” And…

AXELROD: Well, he says, he said, “Being presidential is easy, and he’ll do it at the appropriate time.”

STEWART: Right, but what does that say about your constituency if what you’re saying to them is, “Look, the only way that I can win this part of the race is by being an unrepentant, narcissistic asshole, because that’s what my voters like. But once I have to appeal everybody, I’ll be cool.”

AXELROD: Yeah. But, the fact is that you look at all these exit polls from primary after primary, and the big number that he commands is he tells it like it is. He says stuff other politicians aren’t willing to say, and, you know, you spoke earlier about people who are frightened, you know, because of these changes in the economy that have left them without the kind of future that they thought they would have, and they’re eating that up.

STEWART: Right, but that, again, and this gets to the point of…

AXELROD: Authenticity is what they say.

STEWART: This gets to the point, though, of the press versus the campaign, and what we see in the press is they’re covering the campaign, but they’re not covering voracity or, you know, so the exit polls say this is what people think, then someone in the press has to come out and go, “Wow, people must be assholes because that’s not OK to think, you know. It’s no OK to have nostalgia for the madmen society and think that that ignorance is virtue.” And they have twisted this around so that his ignorant pronouncements are somehow a sign of great character. It’s like where I grew up, when people go like, ‘Hey look, no disrespect, I’m not saying your mother’s a whore, I’m saying…” and you’re like, “I think that’s what you’re saying.”

AXELROD: The difference is he would just say, “Your mother’s a whore.”

STEWART: Right. But, when he says, you know, “People are so nerv…” – See, here’s what so amazing about this. So, the whole idea of political correctness is everybody’s so sensitive, just get over it. you know, why should African Americans be so sensitive about police shootings? Why do they have to be so sensitive about years of systemic racism creating economic disparity? Come on. I’m not a slave owner. Donald Trump couldn’t handle us making a joke about him. Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, did a joke about Donald Trump’s hands 25 years ago. He’s still not f—ing over it.

AXELROD: And his hands weren’t any bigger.

STEWART: So Muslims…

AXELROD: Not true, by the way.

STEWART: He actually did a spiel…

AXELROD: Finger extensions.

STEWART: …Trump International, and if you see them now, they say, “Trump,” in gold letters. (Inaudible). But the idea being that Muslims, hey man, all he’s saying is they’re evil and shouldn’t be allowed in this country. He’s just telling it like it is, but God forbid you say, “Happy Holidays” in December. It’s f—ing war. So who is it who’s exactly sensitive here? We’re only talking about what are the trigger points and the trigger points, to me, seem to be, on one side, grounded in a certain reality of life that only those with no experience or empathy towards what those individuals are going through are having and the other seems to be a clinging to a societal paradigm that just doesn’t exist anymore and probably never did. When was America great? What is this time that he speaks of, ‘81 to ‘82? Like what are we talking about, and who took your country away from you?


STEWART: Whose country, you know, whose is it?


STEWART: Take up…

AXELROD: Well those…

STEWARET: …take up the argument with the founders, take it up with the age of reason. That’s the, you know, “All men are created equal,” that’s f—ed the whole thing up.

AXELROD: Yeah. The, you know the thing that they – I think the people who are rallying to him would say – I mean, some of it is just, I think, grounded in pure racism, and nativism, and all of that, but there also is the fact that the economy; you mentioned globalism, technology…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …has made a lot of jobs obsolete that…


AXELROD: …you didn’t need a college education. These kids are going to do great.

STEWART: No. I don’t – I don’t know about that.

AXELROD: Well, there are – there are…

STEWART: I’m not that impressed with you guys.

AXELROD: …three or four who aren’t going to do great and you know who you are.

STEWART: They might do great or they might not.

AXELROD: But, I mean, my point is this, we haven’t paid enough attention, as a country, to how we shepherd this change and make opportunity more broadly avail– I think education is a piece of it. he’s not speaking to that, but that’s really the debate we should be having in this country, is what are we going to do with this big revolutionary change that has left a lot of people behind?

STEWART: Right. But, you have a situation in government that makes that very difficult, if government is. The fallacy of this whole thing, and maybe it’s a leftover for the Marshall Plan and everything else, and the nostalgia for the World War II era, is that America can actually control things in a matter that is tidy. This idea, somehow, that we can control – we live in a post-colonial world. We no longer have a western frontier. Like, that’s just reality. And, globalization is not a question of – American policy cannot – that box has been opened and the problem with globalization is not that America hasn’t handle it, it’s that corporate America would prefer – money travels, people don’t. so, if they can send money to places where they can hire 100 people that’ll work twelve hours a day for two dollars, versus ten people that only work eight hours a day for $15 an hour, what are they going to do? So, this has nothing to do with…

AXELROD: That’s kind of the argument Trump’s been making.

STEWART: Here – but here’s the real political incorrectness. If they really want to be truthful, the problems in this country are not because of Mexicans and Muslims, and if they want to, in any way, confront what’s really going on, the problems in this country is you have one party in America whose sole purpose is to freeze the government and to not fix any of the problems that are associated with it. They have a great game going, which is: government sucks and can’t get the job done, and then they can sit as an impediment to that government and point to their destruction as evidence of their thesis. It’s a great tautology and it’s – for what everyone is saying about the democrats, maybe they’re feckless, maybe they focus too much on identify politics, or they’re not fiscally responsible. At least they’re f—ing trying.

AXELROD: Yeah, well, I’m not going to debate you on that.

STEWART: You know what? You’re not the same without the mustache.

AXELROD: I know, but thank God you took up the facial hair so we can still carry the torch out there.

STEWART: I appreciate that.

AXELROD: Well, talk – I want to talk a little bit about Hillary Clinton, but…


AXELROD: …before we do – before we do, you’re obviously – you haven’t lost your edge, you haven’t lost your passion. Have you been restless watching this whole thing, not having the platform that you had? Obviously, you can create a new one, and I want to ask you about whether you’re about to create a new one.

STEWART: No, I’m not – you know, I’m not restless because what I gained from leaving the show, in perspective, of when you are in that soup, it is very hard not to begin to think that the world functions on that currency. There’s only two cities that I know of that are that arrogant and that’s D.C. and Los Angeles, where they truly believe – and we saw it again with Larry Wilmore.

AXELROD: At the White House Correspondents’…

STEWART: At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

AXELROD: I want to ask you about your reaction.

STEWART: Larry Wilmore did the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and everybody went nuts, “My God, he’s done.” With what? “He’s finished.” He’s not running for anything. He’s not finished. “He’ll never get asked back.” I don’t think he gives a sh–.


STEWART: You know, and when you watch the post-show analysis, it was all based on whether or not he had helped himself; how some of the room had read it, and not, in any way…

AXELROD: A little narcissistic there.

STEWART: But not only narcissistic, but in no way an examination of the foundation of what he was saying, which is: You are an incredibly corrupt and blinded, symbiotic terrarium.

AXELROD: Yeah, I don’t understand why that message wasn’t well received.

STEWART: Here’s the thing, not well received, not received.


STEWART: Not noticed.

AXELROD: Now that’s – yes.

STEWART: They did not notice it.


STEWART: What they noticed was, “He didn’t get that many laughs. He really bombed.”

AXELROD: Yeah. Well that’s the weird thing about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner…


AXELROD: …because there is this, sort of, strange symbiosis between Hollywood and Washington and they’re similar communities…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …and so the actors come to Washington and love to mix with the politicians; the politicians love to mix with the actors, and you know there is a narcissism about those two communities that is very much the same. You did the dinner once, right…


AXELROD: …in ‘97?

STEWART: Mm-hmm. I did it right after Imus, and Imus famously made a joke, I guess, about Clinton’s proclivities, and again they said…

AXELROD: For diplomacy, for…?

STEWART: Yes. For reading mostly. I have to watch, obviously we’re in a church, there’s only so far I can go. Or, actually, you know what? I’m out of his jurisdiction, so I can pretty much say whatever I want. He’d be ready to strike me down with lightening, and be like, “Eh, it’s not his house anyway.” I think that the problem is the system is incentivized in all the wrong directions. And, right now, the system is incentivized in the way that a crack dealer is incentivized, which is it can do tremendous damage, but as long as people are buying crack, everything’s good on his block, and I really, I truly believe it’s that corrosive and corrupt. When you have the presidents of networks saying, “Trump is good for business.” When you have the lead anchor of FOX News having to go to Trump’s hotel to make him stop being mean to her, and now he says she’s terrific because they’ve had a dayton (ph), that’s f—ed.


STEWART: You know, I don’t know how you describe – you know, there are heads of networks who have said, “Donald Trump is great for business.” Well, why would you kill the thing that’s great for business?

AXELROD: Well, I asked you that at the beginning and you…

STEWART: Why would you even say what it was?

AXELROD: I asked you at the beginning and you were sort of dismissive about what the role of the media has been. But, what you’re suggesting is that there is an – they have a pecuniary interest the Trump story.

STEWART: Correct. Right? I think what I was responding to, about the role of the media is, can they solve it on their own?

AXELROD: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: But look, television journalism was ahead of the game at the Nixon-Kennedy debate, you know. That’s when the television medium…

AXELROD: That was a while ago.

STEWART: …came into – Right. I was there, you were there.

AXELROD: Yeah. We were pages.

STEWART: …came into effect. Basically, Kennedy understood it a little bit, rudimentary he thought, I should probably wear makeup and Nixon was like, “I look right.” You know, so he went out there and, you know, everybody thought he had hepatitis and that was the end of his career. Since then, an entire industry has risen up as to how to manipulate and skew that medium to the advantage of the politicians and the powerful, and the industry, rather than, in some ways, creating a counterweight to that, have been subsumed by it, and so now it’s a symbiosis. The media is no longer predator and prey, which I think should be the relationship, but a Remora that’s just attached underneath, hoping for crumbs that fall off the shark.

AXELROD: Thought they do – I mean, I watched Trump with George Stephanopoulos yesterday…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …who tried to probe – I don’t know if you saw this show, but he was probing him on his various proposals and Trump said, you know he said, “You know your tax plan would be a windfall for the wealthy” and Trump said, “Well, it is now, but once we negotiate, it won’t be anymore.”

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: And just basically shedding all of his…


AXELROD: …positions, so. But he’s being challenged. He’s just – he’s just.

STEWART: No. But it’s – you’re talking about singular, anecdotal moments. You’re talking about floating logs in a torrent. You know, the relentless of the cycle requires an equal counterweight. It can’t – a counterweight does not mean that occasionally, you know, you push back to a small extent as the waters rush by you everywhere else. That’s, I think, where FOX has an advantage, is that they understood that, to take over the cycles, you need to be relentless; you need to be perpetuating your point of view and your propaganda in the same way that people consume it, which is constantly, and self-reinforcingly, and over and over and over again.

AXELROD: Which seems to be (inaudible).

STEWART: Unless you have someone pushing back with that same force, you’re not going to have any balance.

AXELROD: Well, the interesting thing about this election though is it’s not much different. Trump has, basically, embraced that tactic. I mean, he is relentless, he is ubiquitous, he is out there all the time.

STEWART: He’s just learned how to – he’s just doing judo against them. What works for a 24-hour network – what is it incentivized for? It is incentivized for – here’s what you would want it to be incentivized for: clarity. It is incentivized for what? Conflict. The voices that are amplified are the ones that are the most conflict-oriented, the most extreme; those are the guys that get the airtime. So, if they’re incentivized for conflict, Trump is not playing this like that. Everybody keeps talking about, “He’s amazing.” He’s not – this is the first season of survivor. This is reality show 101.

AXELROD: Right, right.

STEWART: I’m going to be an enormous dick at the beginning of the show to get all of this attention and then, once I make it to final council, then I’m going to reveal – he’s – what’s the guy’s name? Jonny Fairplay. He’s Jonny Fairplay. He’s the guy who said, “Oh, my grandmother died, and don’t vote me out.” And then, finally, when he got to the final tribal council, that’s what he’s playing.

AXELROD: Talk to be about Hillary Clinton as an opponent to him, and what…

STEWART: I’ve never run against her, so I don’t…

AXELROD: …what would you be saying about her if you were doing your show right now?

STEWART: What I think about Hillary Clinton is, you know, I imagine to be a very bright woman without the courage of her convictions because I’m not even sure what they are. So, I would suggest that, when I watch her campaign – when I watch her campaign, it reminds me of – and again, I’m throwing out references that mean absolutely nothing to anybody, so I will continue to do that – she reminds me of Magic Johnson’s talk show, and I won’t say anything else.

AXELROD: You had that thought too, huh?

STEWART: If you ever watch Magic Johnson’s tele– Magic Johnson was a charming individual, but he wasn’t a talk show host, and when you watched his show you could almost see Arsenio’s advice to him, in real time rendering, so he would sit and he would go, “Uh, my first guest tonight – Oh, Arsenio said, enthusiasm is something that’s sell is – “my first guess tonight is Cher, everybody.” But he never seemed authentic and real to his personality. It seemed like he was wearing an outfit designed by someone else for someone else to be someone else, and that is not to say that she is not preferable to Donald Trump, because at this point, I would vote for Mr. T over Donald Trump. But, I think she will be in big trouble if she can’t find a way, and maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a real person doesn’t exist underneath there. I don’t know.

AXELROD: You worked – you dabbled on the government side when you were advocating for the Zadroga Act for 9/11 survivors. Did you work with her, when she was Senator of New York, on that?


AXELROD: So you never had any…

STEWART: I worked with Kirsten Gillibrand.

AXELROD: Mm-hmm. I see. So, she was out of the Senate by then.

STEWART: She’s terrific. Kirsten Gillibrand is terrific.

AXELROD: So, Hillary was out of the Senate by then. Now, you must’ve had her on your show.


AXELROD: And what was that like?

STEWART: Really cool. It’s – look, there are politicians who are either rendering their inauthenticity in real enough time to appear authentic, and then there are politicians who render their inauthenticity through – it’s like when your computer – you want to play – if you have a MAC and you want to play a Microsoft game on it…

AXELROD: Yes, yes.

STEWART: …and there’s that weird lag.

AXELROD: Yes. No, I mean…

STEWART: That’s Hillary Clinton.

AXELROD: …that’s big problem. There’s like a seven second delay and all the words come out in a perfectly…


AXELROD: …politically calibrated sentence.

STEWART: Right. Now, what gives me hope in that is that there’s a delay, which means she’s somehow fighting something. I’ve seen politicians who don’t have that delay and render their inauthenticity in real time and that’s when you go, “That’s a sociopath.”

AXELROD: That’s an uplifting message there. The…

STEWART: By the way, as far as uplifting messages, I have never in my life experienced what I experienced in my one day of lobbying down in Washington, D.C.

AXELROD: Yeah, I want to ask you about…

STEWART: And let me just say, like for however I painted it on the show, it’s so much worse than you could possibly imagine. It is a cesspool. There are some good people trying to survive within the lava, but it’s a f—ing horror show. No disrespect.


STEWART: There is…

AXELROD: Just the fact that you’re at the Institute of Politics where we’re trying to encourage young people to get into the public arena.

STEWART: Can I say this? Get into it and don’t get it on you. I’ve never – I was down there with firefighters who had spent a year on the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. The guy that I was with, Ray Pfeifer, had a titanium rod in his leg that was breaking because of the metastasized cancer that was roiling through it that he got from being on the pile. We had the scientific evidence with us. You cannot imagine the disrespect, the lack of compassion, that was exhibited towards this man and this cause by individuals in higher office. It was – I will never recover from it.

AXELROD: So, here’s my – here’s my theory, because I can’t sit in front of a thousand young people and not say this; you know, you have to – if you turn away, and you walk away from this and you just seed – seed all of that to the people you’re talking about, you’re going to get what you get and it seems to me that there’s some obligation to go in there and try and change it. You say go in there and don’t get it on you…


AXELROD: …but, we need that. We need that. We need that. No, but this is the most public spirited…

STEWART: When I say, “Don’t get it on you” I don’t mean, don’t engage. I mean, take appropriate precautions, wear a HAZMAT suit. Bring your ideals. Whenever I speak to – and we used to do this thing every year where we’d bring the press secretaries for all the Senate and all the House people that wanted to come in and they would say to me, “So, what can my candidate to have a successful appearance on your show?” And I would say, “He could, or she could, say what she thinks about the issues concerning America.”

AXELROD: And he says, “Is there any other way to do it?”

STEWART: But they would say, “But what should I tell them? What works best?” “When people say what they believe.” “What’s that?” And honestly, like, I know you think that I’m being hyperbolic. I recognize that you don’t understand this. I am not – they are as unaware of their own machinations as you could possibly imagine. It’s – and I’m not even saying its malevolence.

AXELROD: It’s the way the game is played.

STEWART: I assume that it’s survival. That’s a good (inaudible).

AXELROD: But you must’ve met people over the course of – from ‘99 to last year, doing this show…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …you must have run across people who were disarming and…

STEWART: Sure, no, I must’ve.

AXELROD: Do you want a few seconds to think about that?

STEWART: Yeah, hold on. There are people that were – what I would get there is the same thing I would get in the news industry, which is people would pull you aside, and they would say, “Yeah man, it sucks. It’s so – you’re absolutely right, it’s terrible down here.” And you would just go, “Hmm.”

AXELROD: But, you know, again, I don’t want to sit here as this, sort of, defender of a system that is badly broken.


AXELROD: But there are people who do make a difference.

STEWART: (Inaudible).

AXELROD: You mentioned Kirsten Gillibrand; there are others who…


AXELROD: …actually go there and try (inaudible)…

STEWART: The thing I always – the amount of energy that you have to expend – I’ll just go along with the 9/11 building. This is as no-brainer as you can possibly get. This is, a hoard of zombies would stop their brain-eating rampage to go, “Yeah, those guys should get some healthcare. That makes sense.”

AXELROD: Yeah. So run out a find a hoard of zombies?

STEWART: So, these guys, for nine years, had to travel with cancer, with mesothelioma, with low lung function, with heart failure, nine years of incessant lobbying to move this body and it only, through their lobbying efforts, and some measure of public shaming, they relented in the most condescending of ways, to finally give into it. If it takes that effort to do something that easy, it is a system that must be – it is self-perpetuating in a way that is dangerous…


STEWART: …at this point.

AXELROD: You know, but I saw, you know, I saw, and you were there, doing your thing, I saw people cast votes for the Affordable Care Act, who lost their positions and people who voted for Cap and Trade to try and do something about climate change…


AXELROD: …who lost their positions.


AXELROD: And we should – and there are some who didn’t, but we should, at least, acknowledge that there are those people who are willing to do that. I always say, Profiles in Courage, was a thin volume for a reason.


AXELROD: OK, it’s not the norm. But, it’s something that we should…

STEWART: I guess my point is, is why, in God’s name, should that be courage? In what world is taking a political stand and trying to affect legislation that should be – and by the way, what’s incumbent on those who believe government can make a difference in people’s lives is to try and make it more efficient and I think that’s where the democrats fail in an enormous way, is that in their world, if you believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, well then make the bureaucracy work more efficiently, make the regulations that are strangling, you know, small businesses; don’t just open the FED window at zero percent to corporations. Force them, at some level, to, at least, give a percentage of that to small business loans. I mean – and I understand that they are trying. And, you and your boss and I had a big argument about this, but the VA. If you can do an Executive Order to kill an American citizen from above with a missile, how can you not do an Executive Order to re-evaluate the DOD and the VA systems so that you don’t spend a billion dollars trying to get two computer programs to talk to each other when probably three of these idiots could do it for $500? It doesn’t wash. And at some level, and I’ll lay the blame then with the democrats. The door is open to an asshole, like Donald Trump, because the democrats haven’t done enough to show to people that government, that can be effective for people, can be efficient for people, and if you can’t do that, then you’ve lost the right to make that change and someone’s going to come in and demagogue you…


STEWART: …and that’s what happens.

AXELROD: I don’t know, Jon, that the people who are following Trump are following him because of efficiency. I think there are other elements. There are other elements, without question.

STEWART: And, I don’t disagree with you.

AXELROD: I’ve always said this, that we be committed to ends and not means, and if the means don’t work, then change them, you know. I think that challenging government is something that democrats should do. But, on the other hand…

STEWART: Let me ask you a question.

AXELROD: …on the other hand, let me…

STEWART: Is government too big to manage?

AXELROD: That’s a very good question and what I think happens is we’ve got a country of 330,000,000 so government’s going to be large. What I think happens is bureaucracy builds on bureaucracy and it gets incrusted on top of itself…


AXELROD: …and we – especially in an age of technology, there is an opportunity to do things better and more creatively and I think that government should (inaudible). But, let me say this – let me just say a word on this because I think before we’re too cynical about this…

STEWART: This is not cynicism. Don’t mistake…

AXELROD: No, but let me…

STEWART: Don’t mistake this for cynicism.

AXELROD: If you talk to one of the 20,000,000 people who have healthcare or they didn’t have healthcare…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …they have a pretty positive view of government, you know. If you talk to people who have a Pell Grant, or if you talk to people who are, finally, after all these centuries, enjoying their full rights, gay and lesbian Americans, they feel positively that government has been on their side, at least…

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

AXELROD: …in recent years, so I think that it is a little bit too broad-brushed to say no progress has been made and nobody has…

STEWART: I would definitely agree with you if that’s what I had said. But that’s not what I said.


STEWART: What I said was, and to throw it back the other way, and let me say this, can you imagine how disconcerting it is for someone, who’s talking about the efficiency of government, to talk to the man who, basically helped barack Obama get elected, and you’re a powerful guy, who has, basically, been part of the group that’s been in charge of government for eight years, to say, “Yeah, you know, bureaucracy is bureaucracy. What are you gonna do?” And, you’re like, “I don’t know.”

AXELROD: And here’s the thing Jon, government…


AXELROD: …the system we have, and you wrote the definitive on the U.S. Constitution, so I know you know this…


AXELROD: …the government we have is hard to move. We moved a lot in the first two years when Obama…


AXELROD: …was president; 2010 came along and there was a huge tidal wave and we’ve had a situation where you have a gridlock – not a gridlock, but a very divided Congress.


AXELROD: And, the system is devised in such a way that it makes it…


AXELROD: …very difficult to get things done under that.

STEWART: No question.

AXELROD: So that’s, you know, yes, I would’ve liked if we had come to office and we didn’t have, you know, a massive economic crisis and some of the other things, but I would’ve liked to have concentrated on this project, which is; how do you rationalize government for the 21 Century? There are these projects going on within government, but it’s very hard to turn it around.



STEWART: But, all I’m saying is, if people can see your re-election effort be incredible agile and, I mean, I honestly, I’m still getting emails from Re-Elect barack Obama, like sometimes through, like the television. Like, I don’t know how you guys figured it out, but if you’re that…

AXELROD: You’re laggard in your donations by the way.

STEWART: If you’re that agile for campaigning, why are we so good at campaigns and so bad at governance?

AXELROD: Because campaigns are not as complicated and not as challenging as government because you have full control over your campaigns. Let me tell you something, when we made a decision in our campaign, I didn’t have to go and have Congress affirm it.


AXELROD: OK. We could just move. And, so government…

STEWART: So do you believe the bureaucracy…

AXELROD: …is not, the campaigns are not government.

STEWART: (Inaudible). You can’t do, in the way that you use executive action, you can’t use that against the bureaucracy.

AXELROD: No, you can and it has been done and there have been a lot – there’s been, in a series of different ways (inaudible)…

STEWART: Are you happy with the amount that you guys did in that regard?

AXELROD: I am. I am convinced that had there not been the resistance we had in Congress, we could’ve done more. There’s no question about that. You know, am I happy about…

STEWART: So, we agree?

AXELROD: Yes. We agree, except for this one point, which is…

STEWART: Yeah. By the way, this is how Jews make love. This is, just so you know, like he and I, when we’re done with this…

AXELROD: We can only say…

STEWART: …this is like eating latkes…


STEWART: …on top of (inaudible) with like…

AXELROD: We’re missing – where’s the corn beef?

STEWART: …and the only thing that’s missing is an uncle who’s to the right of Genghis Khan…


STEWART: …who can just walk in and go, “Israel has a right to defend itself.” So, I’m just pointing it out for those of you who are getting nervous, this is how we communicate.

AXELROD: We had a guy like that standing right here a few months ago. But, no, I have to say…

STEWART: I don’t go to school here, so I don’t know what that means.

AXELROD: No, no.


AXELROD: It’s too facile to compare campaigns to government.

STEWART: The reason why I don’t think it’s facile is this, so – and again, I think it’s a part of – it’s very easy to say, “Well, it’s two different systems.” Well, we’re at the point in our government where if you can take extraordinary measures to fix a crisis like the bank bailout…

AXELROD: Mm-hmm.

STEWART: …then you can take extraordinary measures to fix a crisis like crumbling infrastructure and bureaucratic nightmares.


STEWART: I – I, you know…

AXELROD: Jon, you can’t, by executive order, fix crumbling infrastructure. You need money to fix crumbling infrastructure…

STEWART: Right. But, you can fix…

AXELROD: …in a Congress that’s willing to work with you to fix crumbling infrastructure.

STEWART: You can fix some of the problems in contracting. You can fix that.

AXELROD: Yes, you can do that and some of that’s…

STEWART: That’s my point.

AXELROD: …been done. But the point is, you can’t fix through contracting a massive underfunding of infrastructure…

STEWART: No, under…

AXELROD: ….which is (inaudible) going on for years. But, listen, we just got a couple minutes left.


AXELROD: I just want to ask; I know you hate…

STEWART: Sagittarius.

AXELROD: …you deflect – no, this was that if you were a tree thing.


AXELROD: You deflect questions about yourself. I have two….

STEWART: All right.

AXELROD: …and one is, when you were growing up in Jersey, you could not have imagined…

STEWART: Wait, wait, hold on a second. Thank you for that. That was the appropriate amount of applause for New Jersey. Wait. You said, “When you were growing up in New Jersey” and literally I just heard this… like in the way you would if, at the Masters, somebody sank a put. All right, go ahead.

AXELROD: But, you could not have imagined that you would be opining and you’d have the world hanging on your words on politics, on the social scene. I mean, this wasn’t – you couldn’t – this was not your life goal. This is important because I think some kids are taught to believe that they need to have a life plan. You didn’t have a life plan to become what you are now.


AXELROD: Well, yeah, kind of a circuitous route to get there.

STEWART: I was raised in a laboratory, a comedic laboratory. I mean, I think – I understand your point about protecting their innocence and their enthusiasm. Please don’t misunderstand, criticism is out of love and desperation.

AXELROD: No, I totally get that.

STEWART: Not cynicism that (inaudible).

AXELROD: And, no, I totally get that.

STEWART: In fact, I’m not pessimistic in any way, because this country has proven resilient, based on the fact that it’s foundation is the age of reason in the age of enlightenment, and that is going to be what carries us through – you know, we face darker times than these.

AXELROD: No, we had much darker…

STEWART: And they have.

AXELROD: These guys are going to make a difference. I think that one of the things that’s changing in this country is that young people are more tolerant, they’re more aware, they’re more – they feel more rooted in the world, and not just in their own lives. I think that these guys are going to change things. but, you’re deflecting again because you won’t talk about yourself.

STEWART: All right, all right.

AXELROD: So, I’m going to give up – I’m going to give up the whole Jon Stewart story because we don’t have time for it, but it’ll be in a…

STEWART: You are missing out.

AXELROD: …bookstore near you soon. But, I have to ask you about moving forward…


AXELROD: …because there have been – HBO suggested maybe you would be engaging this (inaudible).

STEWART: I’m not – I’m not going to be on television anymore. The whole point of growing old…

AXELROD: Are you going to engage at all in this next six months? Are we going to see Jon Stewart work his (inaudible)?

STEWART: I feel like I’m engaged now. I mean, you know, the one thing I also want to make clear to people is, when you’re not on television, you’re still alive, and you’re still engaged in the world, and I feel maybe more engaged with the world in a real way now than I ever did sitting on television interviewing politicians and convincing them, you know, I…

AXELROD: Do you have any creative projects planned between now and November that have to do with the election, whether it’s on the internet…?

STEWART: I mean, you know, we’re working on technology and animation to try to do, sort of, interesting, little, small bits, and if we can figure out…

AXELROD: (Inaudible) go viral.

STEWART: I don’t – again, like, do what you think is good, and if you get 50 likes, great; if you get 500 likes. Like, your life exists outside of television and likes, and Instagram. Like, engage the world. The reason why I was talking about bureaucracy is so my wife, who is so much nicer than me; you’d love her, she is – we’re starting this sanctuary for farm animals, so we had to go before a local Monmouth County Agriculture Board. The epitome of real America civic engagement, civic society. The work that these individuals – they were all farmers; the board is ten farmers – the work that they put into preserving and keeping the farm life and what they do, there way of life was inspiring. If you want to talk about inspiration, you can put it…


STEWART: …right on them.

AXELROD: They’re like that all over the country.

STEWART: These stories and the questions that they raised with us were thought-provoking, they helped shaped this project in a way that improved it massively, and they dealt with a tremendous amount of paperwork that made no sense to anybody, and they did it with humor and with a certain resignation, but they did it.

AXELROD: This must’ve confounded your lobbyist.


AXELROD: Yes. But, the point is, between now…


AXELROD: …and November, do you expect to surface some projects relative to the election?

STEWART: Oh, it may. I wish I had a better answer. I just don’t – I don’t know. You know, we’re working on it. I’d love to have it ready, you know, by September or something like that, but not necessarily for the election as though that’s the D-day. Like again…

AXELROD: But it’s an important time for the country. I mean…

STEWART: As I said, like I’ll still – I mean, I’ll vote. I don’t – in other words, you know, let me put it this way, the October surprise in this election is not a two-minute cartoon that I’m going to release. Like, the powers that be are working very diligently. Television has never been more right with beautiful satire. There are people from John Oliver to Sam B., to Steven Colbert to Seth Meyers, to Trevor, to Larry, to – I am so impressed and amazed at the level of insight and wit that is displayed on television every day. It just, you know – there is no dearth.

AXELROD: They’re all great. They’re all great, but I will say, and we’ll wrap it up here, there’s also one Jon Stewart and if you move around people are asking, “Why isn’t he here commenting on this?” But, we’re so lucky that you’re here to…

STEWART: I’m delighted.

AXELROD: …(inaudible).

STEWART: You know; I’ve always wanted to be confirmed.


STEWART: And this counts, right?

AXELROD: Yes. As soon as you put something in the collection.

STEWART: All right. I’ll do that.

AXELROD: All right. We’re going to take some…

STEWART: Yeah, let’s take some questions.


AXELROD: That’s that Rockefeller song again. OK, we’re going to take some questions.

STEWART: I’m glad you came (inaudible). I thought everybody was leaving. I was like, “Hey, what?”

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

STEWART: I don’t think the mic is…

COMMENTATOR: Yeah, thank you so much.

AXELROD: Oh, I see, there we go. You’re coming next. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Thank you for being here. Thinking about this election cycle and the rise of Trump or Sarah Palin’s condemnation of Paul Ryan, or whatever it is…


AXELROD: …are there limits to comedy, the effect that it can have, and are there certain topics that are off limits to political satire?

STEWART: To the first – no topic is off limits, unless you’ve got one that you’d like to toss out there because no topics are off limits to life. And, I’m still waiting for someone to ask that question to a politician instead of a comic, because all I ever hear is people always say, “Where’s the line?” And they always ask comedians, “Where’s the line?” Very rarely do they say to Presidents and Senators, “Where’s the line? Which bomb would be the line?” So, it’s always interesting to me that people think comedians, somehow, are the ones that go against – you know, push human nature too far. But, the actions of our government, or somehow we all just kind of accept it. And I would say this, as far as the efficacy of satire, I am of the school of Peter Cook, who was a great comedian. Dudley Moore and Peter Cook were a great team and he was a British comedian, and he was asked once, “What is the greatest satire, in your mind? Who had the greatest satire?” And Peter Cook, as normal comedians would, when ask that question, would go, “I don’t know” and so the interviewer said, “Well, I believe it was the follies of Berlin; Munich in Berlin in 1938, the rise of the Nazis.” And Peter Cook said, “Yeah, they really showed Hitler” and that’s how I feel about satire.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you so much for coming. My name is Baxter Stein, I’m a second year here in the college, and my question is about policy and comedy.


QUESTION: And so, one of your intellectual successors, John Oliver, does a lot of work every week, you know, advocating for policy change.


QUESTION: And so I just want to hear more about your philosophy and what (inaudible) areas of policy are where you think comedy can have a big impact?

STEWART: You know, here’s the only thing I would say, shame can be a final gust of wind. Comedy can’t have an impact on policy. People can have an impact on policy. Grassroots lobbying, foundational lobbying, have an influence. In terms of 9/11 and Zadroga, as an example, nine years they worked, tirelessly, down there, at the right moment – it’s sort of – you know what it reminds me of? Back to the Future. He built the car, he spent his whole life building that car, and all one guy had to do was just make the clock hand go to that one thing. That’s comedy. You’re just – when the lightening – if there’s one moment that could help the guy that has made his life’s work something this profound, if you can somehow focus some energy on that, in that moment, at just the right time, it can be catalyzing, but it, in no way, can be mistaken for activism. Comedy and satire are an expression. They are an artistic idea. They are not activism. It is not anything other than a painting, a song, a joke. None of those can change anything. They can, occasionally, focus a conversation at a crucial moment and help the good work of all the individuals that have put in that time, and I never forget that. Nothing that we ever did meant anything compared to the people on the ground in grassroots who work tirelessly in anonymity against all odds to do what’s right, and have to do that facing headwinds that shouldn’t be there in the first place, that are artificial.

AXELROD: Jon, when you went to the Daily Show…


AXELROD: …it was a much different show that you inherited then. It was more celebrity-oriented show.


AXELROD: Did you make a decision right from the beginning that we’re going to do political satire and we’re going to use the platform where we can be that final ingredient or…


AXELROD: …did this all evolve over time?

STEWART: No. None of it is explicit and conscious. What I made a decision about on the Daily Show, when I took it is, I’m not interested in this, I’m interested in this, and if I’m going to spend every day here, 12 hours a day, I want to work on something I’m interested in, and I’m not interested in that. But at no moment was there ever the explicit, we are going to turn this ship to focus here to enact change there. It was, “That seems boring; that seems interesting. Let’s do that.”

HEBNER: HI. I’m Brock Hebner (ph), I’m a fourth year student here.

STEWART: Brock, I know who you are. Everybody knows ‘The Hebner.’ Yeah, baby.

AXELROD: You knocked the question right out of him.

HEBNER: There has been so much talent that has come out of the Daily Show with your correspondence.


HEBNER: And I’m wondering what about the Daily Show environment, in general, or your leadership, in particular, do you think led to the growth and development of such talented actors and talk show hosts?

STEWART: Brock, when you are a facilitator of men, if I may – I mean, some of it, honestly, is happenstance. We were fortunate to be able to identify really talented people and have the pleasure and honor of having them come and work with us and hopefully the environment was stimulating enough for them and collaborative enough for them that they were able to express themselves to their best ability, and I think that’s – you know, my feeling about those environments is always, simply, have a clarity of vision, but a flexibility of process. So, the idea being, know your intention. It’s the one – the only thing that you can ever control is intention. You can’t control people’s perception of it, you can’t control what they make of it, but you can control through your own sense of moral foundation, or barometer, or whatever it is that makes you tick, what your intention is, and then you try and execute that intention to its best Avatar, to its best self, and that’s what we would try and do in the show, and we were fortunate to have access to the kind of talent that we did. So, I don’t know that there was anything inherent in the atmosphere as much as in the same way that I felt like talking about issues in politics would make it more interesting, we were able to find performers that also felt that way, and together that created, I think, a certain energy through part of that process. Cameraman has a question? (Inaudible).

QUESTION: Hi. I just wanted to back to – earlier you were talking about the media and how they…


QUESTION: …kind of twisted incentives.


QUESTION: And I was wondering how we could really go about changing those incentives, to focus on clarity over a conflict, like you said, kind of stray away from the FOX business model.

STEWART: Well, it’s not – the one thing I would say is it’s not just the FOX business model. I think it’s the business model. FOX has found a way to work their ideology into the business model, which I think is, you know, having your cake and eating it too. CNN doesn’t have an ideology, other than, you know, narrating the news as it happens outside, without knowing why. MSNBC would like to have the clarity of their ideology mesh with making money, but so far, that hasn’t just worked out. But, I think, again, news isn’t just another – as in the same way that I view healthcare; it’s just not another commodity that is placed on your cable box, and I think the concerted effort has to be is to remove it from that system, to not necessarily to try and create a 24-hour news network that can be powerful counterweight, a FOX news of voracity, where it’s not so reliant on the daily (inaudible) of ratings and such, but is still good television and is still interesting, and I think it can be done.

AXELFORD: When you and I were kids, there were three major networks. Everybody watched, sort of, the same news and so on. Now, the media environment is completely vulcanized and…


AXELROD: …and people tend to seek out the media that affirm their views rather than necessarily inform their views. Is that unhealthy? I mean, how do you get people to listen to each other?

STEWART: Well, I thank people, in general – yeah, I mean, I don’t know of people that don’t live that way normally. And, you know, I don’t think that’s a common, like, phenomenon that people tend to congregate with like-minded people. I don’t know if you – you ate lunch in high school, right? Like, it’s not like in high school you sought out, “Today, I’m going to sit with the stoner kids…”


STEWART: …and find out what they think about Pink Floyd.” Like people tend to go with people that they’re like-minded. What I would say about media today is that maybe you’re in a bubble, but generally little bits of other people’s bubbles find their way into yours, and that’s, as far as I’m concerned, that’s good. But you need a bubble-making machine. You need a machine that makes good bubbles and is constantly putting them out there and popping other people’s sh–ty bubbles. So – but I would suggest that while there is this, sort of, epistemic closure that you talk about, because of the volume of material being generated, and the tenacity of the material being generated, there’s a lot of crosspollination, and so, people are much more aware of – that’s part of what globalization is about and that’s part of what fuels the anger of globalization is there’s a lot of people in a lot of places who go, who just found out, “Oh, we’re getting f—ed. We didn’t even know that.

And now we do.” So, again, every technology has the ability to elevate and the ability to denigrate, and I’m saying that when it comes to news, and again, this is an exercise of editorial authority. This is subjective. There is no objectivity here. It is subjective, you know, but the internet has the ability to elevate discussion; it also has the ability to just, look, I read the comments sections just like everybody else. Like, I just found out just because I have a gray beard that I have cancer or AIDS. Like, that’s the comment section. What happened to Jon Stewart? He has cancer or AIDS? He had CAIDS, Cancer-AIDS.”

Like, I don’t know. Like, that’s just what it is. That being said, that’s not unusual. Like, what is the biggest thing on the internet? It’s porn. The internet can illuminate or you can just jerk off to it. like, that’s just – Alexander Graham Bell man, he invented the telephone; Watson, come quickly and bring a towel.” Like, that’s what it is. Like, that’s – everything that a man makes, everything that we have, can be used for good or evil. Atomic energy; you can cut it one way and light the world, you can cut it another way, and blow the world up. Like, that’s the dilemma we face. So, use your energy towards, as much as you can, towards the positive.

MELISSA: Hi. I’m Melissa. I’m a second year in the college. So, I know you spoke a little bit before about how comedy is just comedy, it’s just satire. But if you…

STEWART: I don’t – I don’t – I should probably – I don’t mean it’s just satire, like it’s a trifle. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s an amazing way to express yourself. I meant that it cannot take the place of activism, so I don’t mean it as a sense of – it’s just jokes folks. It’s not. Satire is an expression of my true beliefs put through the prism – the reason why it’s not news is the tools of satire are hyperbole and pun, and denigration, you know, sh– you can’t get away with. But, the expression of it may have a similar foundation. So, I apologize for that.

MELISSA: Well, on that note…


MELISSA: …there were a few criticisms and articles about John Oliver and Trevor Noah’s work in doing satire, and talking about how they’re basically doing the work of journalists in order to eliminate different issues. Do you see the world of comedy skewing more towards a comedy-journalism hybrid in any way?

STEWART: I see the world of journalism skewing more towards comedy, unfortunately. I feel like they’re moving towards our box. No, I mean, I think part of – you know, there is a certain form of – what we did on the Daily Show was we took a, sort of, short form content and we tried to create a more essayistic version of that, utilizing principles of argument and logic with the comedy. What that requires, at times, is a certain balance of foundational material, background, and without that background, it wouldn’t make – an essay doesn’t make much sense without its premise statements and things, so that’s where that comes from.

But, I don’t think, you know, people will get tired – art is always evolving into a lot of different ways, but that particular form, comedy generally requires a shared set of knowledge with its audience, so in the days of great scandal that’s sweeping through the country, those jokes are easy because when Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face, that was an easy show to write because everybody knew Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face, so you didn’t really have to go through the whole thing of like, “In 1972, Congress passed the Don’t Shoot Your Friends Act. Now, here’s where–” Like, it was kind of like it was right there, so it was comedy tries to require the least amount of distance between your brain and your gut. So when you have to fill that in, it can to detract from it, so it makes it difficult, so to be able to do that, like guys like Oliver, I really admire their ability to do that, but I don’t think that’s the new thing.

MCNICHOLAS: Thank you so much for being here. My name is Mary McNicholas (ph) and I grew up watching your show nightly…

STEWART: But wait, you’re a full-grown person. That would make me 80.

MCNICHOLAS: I actually had to watch taped shows to see your first couple years on air. I’m so sorry. I didn’t come here to insult you. I promise.

STEWART: No, no, no, that doesn’t at all. I know I’m old.

MCNICHOLAS: But you focused a lot more on pop culture then…


MCNICHOLAS: …and my question is just, when did that shift happen and was it a shift because you saw the need to shift to cover politics or was it more natural because you thought, “Hey, that’s interesting”?

STEWART: In the early years of the show it was more that it was a struggle with the editorial with the network. They were, I think, more of the mindset that people liked the pop culture and I was more the mindset that we could create something slightly different that would still bring in viewership. I think they were feeling like we would be narrowing our focus, economically, and those shifts, generally, take time, but that’s all it was, was that fight had to be fought.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

MCNICHOLAS: Can I follow up? Are you glad that you won that fight? Are you glad that this has been your role that you’ve become…

STEWART: Oh, I’m glad that I did because, you know, I’ve been fired from a lot of places and if the ratings didn’t go up, I would’ve been fired, so I am glad.

MCNICHOLAS: Thank you.

SARAH: Hi. I’m Sarah. I’m a first year in the college and we’re pretty similar in the fact that we’re both Jews from Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

STEWART: Are you really from Lawrenceville?

SARAH: Yeah.

STEWART: Hey, what are you doing there?

SARAH: I don’t know. Like, there’s a little plaque in the hallway outside the auditorium in the high school that says, Jon Leibowitz on it (inaudible).

STEWART: Yeah, yeah. What’s that for, smoking pot? What did I get it for?

SARAH: It says like “Media” on it along with people that were (inaudible)…

STEWART: Oh all right. Yeah man.

SARAH: …it’s for (inaudible).

STEWART: I have a plaque at Lawrence High School.

SARAH: Yeah.

STEWART: Is it still kind of a sh–hole?

SARAH: Yeah.

STEWART: Very nice. Very nice (inaudible).

SARAH: Related to that, because you’re like the one famous person from our town, how do you think that the sh—show that is New Jersey politics and just the state itself has affected your work?

STEWART: Interesting. Surely, New Jersey, having a comic level of corruption in it, has brought to bear, but to be truthful, I was not…

AXELROD: Governor of Illinois by the way.

STEWART: Well yeah, exactly. But, in Illinois, I think you have a better chance of going to prison – if you drop out of high school, you have less of a chance of going to prison than if you become governor. All right. I think, honestly, Watergate and Vietnam were the crucibles by which my mindset was shaped, much more than, you know, New Jersey, which is another whole set of problems.

MARK: Hi. So, my name is Mark. I’m a big fan of the show and I’m actually very lucky because I’ll be interning at the Daily Show this summer.

STEWART: Hey, congratulations.

MARK: Thank you.

STEWART: That’ll be nice.

MARK: So, this is more of a work advice…

STEWART: You know what? Can I say this?

MARK: Yeah.

STEWART: Practice washing fruit.

MARK: I’ll do my best.

STEWART: I just want to make sure you know the gig.

MARK: So, my question is, how do you keep your sanity amid the onslaught of 24-hour news networks, like for your job?

STEWART: Well, I think – were you here the whole time? You don’t. it’s a lot like, remember the movie The Green Mile? Where you like, you don’t – people get lost in it and I think you begin to think that it’s real life and you have to understand that when you watch it it’s designed for a reason and the reason is to heighten urgency and anxiety so that you won’t turn away, and you can begin to think that that’s real, but it’s not. So, just keep that in mind, and Xanax. Go ahead. What? Yeah?

QUESTION: Aztec. So, Senator Republicans have done a pretty effective job in not confirming Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Now that the media has shifted their attention to November, do you think that the, “Let’s wait until the next president chooses the Justice”? Do you think that argument is valid now that there’s six months until the election and what’s your prediction on, you know, who’s going to fill the seat?

STEWART: First of all, don’t threaten me with those boxing gloves on your arm. I know what’s going on.

QUESTION: I swear to God, I got hit by a truck on Friday, so I’m thankful for…

STEWART: Wait. You got hit by a truck?


STEWART: Well, let me just say this, the Merrick Garland question is interesting, but the truck story is f—ing phenomenal. How did you get hit by a truck?

QUESTION: Let’s just say that Hyde Park has some reckless drivers.

STEWART: Oh right, it was ‘the driver’ in Hyde Park and in no way are you stoned on a unicycle. All right. Here’s the question, so I have no idea, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re f—ing themselves because the vote that’s not there is one of the only reliably conservative votes, so any case that’s coming up through this next year that was going to be a 5:4 decision for the conservatives is now moved, so they basically they’re going to spend a year losing, pretty much, any case they had a shot with. So, I don’t know what to tell them.

AXELROD: Take one more question.

STEWART: Yeah. Yes.


STEWART: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Oh great.

STEWART: Brothers and beards.

QUESTION: Thank you. It’s a new one. I’m trying it out. I wanted to ask you about the last interview on your who, which I think was Louis CK.


QUESTION: So, from my memory, I think that was after some of the rumors about Louis CK’s alleged harassment of female comedians…


QUESTION: …and sort of started to come out. Just some things started (inaudible) on the internet.

STEWART: Wait. What?

QUESTION: I think this was after Jen Kirkman, for example, had talked about like her knowledge of Louis CK’s alleged harassment of female comedians…


QUESTION: …at least people interpreted it that way.


QUESTION: There was an article on Gawker, I believe, about it.


QUESTION: And I just wanted to know – I mean, if this is the first you’re hearing of it, maybe my I already got my answer that there really…


QUESTION: ….wasn’t discussion about this on the show, but I…

STEWART: No, wait, wait, wait. I’m a little lost. So, the internet said Louis harassed women?

QUESTION: So, there was first a Gawker article and then there were a couple of tweets by people and I know this is all internet stuff.

STEWART: Pretty authoritative.

QUESTION: I know that this is how…

STEWART: You know who you’re talking to, right?

QUESTION: No, I totally get that.

STEWART: All right.

QUESTION: And it’s a fair point, that like internet rumors are not, you know, court case or anything. I just wanted to know if there was any sort of discussion about that on the show; if that was a thing on your radar?

STEWART: No. I didn’t see the tweets.

QUESTION: No, or Jen Kirkman’s podcast about (inaudible).

STEWART: No, I don’t, and you know, and I apologize, I honestly, like, I’m not that connected to that world, so I do apologize. I don’t know what you’re talking about. But, I can’t really add. I don’t know what to say.

QUESTION: No definitely and I can turn that around and I think that’s a good point is that a lot of people, at the time, didn’t know what that was, and you know, again, like the internet is not for sure or anything like that, but just there have been comedians who have taken strong stances on Bill Cosby without like certain knowledge from Bill Maher to Hannibal Buress, but I was just wondered if you could talk about the role of comedians in (inaudible).

STEWART: But, as you pointed out…


STEWART: …the Bill Cosby case actually is a legal case.

QUESTION: Now it is, but it wasn’t when Bill Maher and Hannibal Buress started talking about it. I just – maybe you could speak to the role of comedians in (inaudible).

STEWART: I mean, all I can tell you is I’ve worked with Louis for 30 years and like he’s a wonderful man and person and I’ve never heard anything about this…


STEWART: …and we’ve all known Bill Cosby was a prick for a long time. So, I don’t know what to tell you. But, I didn’t know about the sexual assault. But, you’re right, it’s important…

QUESTION: Not sexual assault, like just…

STEWART: Or like whatever.

QUESTION: …like just harassment in general.

STEWART: Oh. Yeah, I don’t…

AXELROD: We appreciate your question. Thank you.

STEWART: Yeah. Sorry. I don’t (inaudible).

AXELROD: And, let’s say thanks to Jon Stewart.

STEWART: Oh. Thank you.