On Sunday night, the 22nd annual New Yorker Festival closed out with a virtual talk between Jon Stewart and New Yorker editor David Remnick.
The former Daily Show host discussed a variety of topics, including his new—and decidedly more serious—Apple TV+ talk show, The Problem With Jon Stewart, a Trump 2024 run (“he’s got a very good chance”), and how he spent his time after leaving the trailblazing Comedy Central program he fronted for 16 years.
“For me personally, the way I experienced life was fuller,” Stewart said of his departure. “I had spent so much time singularly focused on The Daily Show, which is a very sort of eccentric process and one that is—I don’t want to say rote because it certainly wasn’t rote. But it was redundant.”
Stewart told Remnick that he took up drumming, driving, and reading for pleasure during his time off the air—in addition, of course, to fighting for benefits for 9/11 first responders and war veterans.
The most interesting portion of their chat concerned so-called cancel culture, or the idea that people are being unfairly “canceled” for voicing their unvarnished opinions. It’s become a bit of an obsession among comedians and right-wing pundits, in particular, who feel as though society has become too politically correct—though the evidence that people are actually being canceled en masse, and not simply criticized/held accountable for their actions, is paper thin.
“People that talk about cancel culture never seem to shut the fuck up about it,” offered Stewart. “Like, there’s more speech now than ever before. It’s not ‘you can’t say it,’ it’s that when you say it—look, the internet has democratized criticism. What do we do for a living—we talk shit, we criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes, and now other people are having their say. And that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness. We live in a relentless culture. And the system of the internet and all those other things are incentivized to find the pressure points of that and exacerbate it.”