The current incarnation of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show almost never was, its host Jon Stewart revealed late last week during a fundraising event at New Jersey’s Wellmont Theatre.
Stewart told his former colleague and friend Stephen Colbert that he nearly quit the show after taking over for Craig Kilborn in 1999, according to Sharilyn Johnson of Third Beat. Stewart’s attempts to bring sharp political commentary to the parodical news show was met with resistance, as the “powers that be” insisted he stick with the previous entertainment news format.
“What I did not realize is, a lot of the people who worked there were assholes,” Stewart said. “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.'”
“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,'” he added. “And then I was told not to change the jokes or improvise.”
But Stewart was “talked down from a moderately high cliff” and remained as the show’s host despite having to deal with the unsupported staff left over after Kilborn’s departure. Stewart said that eventually — after nearly two and a half years — he acquired a supportive staff through a “natural winnowing process.”