Jon Stewart has nothing but praise for his Daily Show successor, Trevor Noah. In fact, the comedian thinks the show is “better” now without him.
Stewart, who hosted the satirical news program for 16 years, explained on SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show how Noah has improved the show since his departure in 2015.
“You say he elevated the show in a way you couldn’t, but do you really think that’s true? I mean, Trevor does a great job, but come on you were pretty f***ing good at it,” Stern asked on Thursday’s episode.
“It’s not meant as a denigration of me,” Stewart replied. “So, the evolution of show was also about opening our eyes to some of the realities of business around us.”
The 57-year-old Irresistible star continued, “When we started, it was — like pretty much everything in late-night comedy — that sort of Harvard Lampoon school of pasty white guys sitting in a room… Evolving the show past that took a really long time. It was a lot of work and oftentimes it came with defensiveness.”
Stewart said in a different interview this week one of his biggest regrets from his Daily Show tenure is having a staff full of mostly white males. He laid out to Stern how there were socioeconomic issues at play with hiring. In order to change systemic racism, Stewart said the system needs to be changed.
“Even socioeconomically, you know the radio and television business is run by rich people from Westchester [New York],” Stewart said. “And the reason that it is, is because when you hire people from this business you generally hire from the interns that you formerly had on the show, but any intern who could afford to take three months off on college and spend that time polishing your grapes is gonna to come from a wealthy background. So, all the people you were hiring were all socioeconomically at a very high level.”
Stewart admitted “it took us a long time to fix” that and one way was by paying interns.
“By paying the interns, suddenly you’re getting a much more diverse group of people that are coming in,” he added. “What we did before was diversity for diversity sake. It was ‘We don’t have enough women writers, let’s hire a woman. We don’t have enough black writers, let’s hire a black person.’ But what we realized is we weren’t changing the system, we were just granting access to a club everybody should have had access to in the first place.”
Stewart continued, “It was our fault for not changing the tributaries and also, it put those women and people of color in a very awkward position because now they feel the responsibility to represent. So that created tensions and pressures for them.”
Noah, who was born and raised in South Africa, made his debut on the Daily Show as an on-air contributor in December 2014. Months later, it was announced he would be the new host.
“It took 16 years to change it at a glacial pace,” Stewart told Stern. “Because that kind of mindset to me, because I didn’t grow up in it… it’s not a part of me. For Trevor, it’s a part of him. It flows from him naturally… It makes it better. The show is better.”
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