Jon Stewart: I Almost Left ‘Daily Show’ Because Of ‘Asshole’ Colleagues

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“The Daily Show” as it exists today nearly came undone when Jon Stewart clashed with the show’s staff after taking over as host in 1999. When Stewart took the reins, he didn’t realize “a lot of the people who worked there were assholes,” he told Stephen Colbert Friday in an on-stage conversation benefiting the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey.Stewart thought there would be room to improvise and take his own approach to the show, but apparently that wasn’t initially the case.

“I had to be talked down from a moderately high cliff,” Stewart said after Colbert asked how close he was to walking away from the show. It took a couple of years for Stewart to remake the staff in his vision, he said.

According to Third Beat magazine, Stewart also said he regretted sharing a stage with Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, at the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in 2010. After the performance, Stewart said the author Salman Rushdie called to express his disappointment in the segment. In a 1989 interview, Islam suggested he supported the fatwa against Rushdie after the publication of “The Satanic Verses.”

Stewart said he called Islam, who told him the whole thing was a misunderstanding. But Stewart said he realized Islam was “straddling two worlds in a very difficult way.”

“[I]t broke my heart a little bit,” Stewart added. “I wish I had known that. … If I had known that, I wouldn’t have done it. Because that, to me, is a deal breaker. Death for free speech is a deal breaker.”

Read Third Beat’s full write-up of the event here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Taintor is a news editor at Talking Points Memo. Previously, he worked at NBC News and Adweek. He's a native of Minnesota. Reach him at taintor@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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