TV Insider | Samantha Bee: ‘Working for Jon Stewart Was Quite Literally an Embarrassment of Riches’

Since Jon first announced he was leaving The Daily Show, I have lived in a near-permanent state of misty. So when approached to write a tribute to him, I wasn’t sure my tear ducts could take another hit. Jon, if you’re reading this, go no further, because it’s about to get weepy, and I know you don’t really seek this kind of unabashed praise.

When Jon gave me my shot on the show, it was transformative. He took me from the brink of giving up show business entirely to a place from which a solid career could be built. Working for him was like working in the best comedy training ground a person could ask for. And though I mostly remember those first months as a general feeling of “Oh my God, don’t f— this up” and “Seriously, don’t f— this up,” Jon always had my back. I don’t mind saying that working my ass off with the single goal of making Jon laugh forged my comedy spine out of molten steel. …

As a boss, Jon explicitly urged—no, required—me to explore my passions as a performer, and when I fell apart from it or just needed to sit in his office and cry about it, he was patient and caring without fail. And did I mention how unbelievably supportive he was when I started having kids? I know—working for Jon was quite literally an embarrassment of riches.

So hearing the news that he was leaving The Daily Show was a bit of a gut punch, for sure. And while, yes, I had a job there and all that, my actual first instinct was to react as a fan, because I am a Jon Stewart superfan. It just feels so weird. I completely get [why he’s leaving], but it still feels weird.

And now here I sit dehydrating from all the tears, gently wizening like a raisin, happy for Jon, missing him already and forever grateful.

Other tributes from former correspondents and current contributors:

  • John Oliver: “If he ever needs me to hide a body for him, I’ll do it.”
  • Kristen Schaal: How I learned “to look at things much deeper because of Jon.”
  • Rob Corddry: Watching Jon craft jokes through the years has “changed my life.”
  • Rachael Harris: Here’s why Jon was really “supportive of my decision to leave.”
  • Larry Wilmore: Jon “doesn’t have an ego when it comes to letting other people shine.”
  • Lewis Black: When I met Jon, I asked, “Why does a good-looking guy need to do comedy?

I dug up my all-time favorite interview, where I think Jon came closest to breaking his rule of civility toward guests – not because he was angry, but because he got carried away playfully demolishing the book’s premise (which suggested that you should run your life like a political campaign) 

the interview was with Chris Matthews,  in 2007, when he brought his latest book, which Jon called “a self-hurt book” and “a recipe for sadness”

Matthews protested, “You’re trashing my book!”

“I’m not trashing your book, I’m trashing your philosophy of life.”

Matthews: “Do you want to succeed?”

Jon: “I’ve succeeded!”

Matthews broke toward the end, exclaiming, “This is a book interview from hell! This is the worst book interview I’ve ever had in my life!”

Jon protested, and Matthews continued, “I thought you were so big – there’s something in here you fear. You fear this book.”

“There is something I fear,” Jon agreed. “Like fascism. I fear fascism!”


A month after Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, Jon Stewart’s prediction has come true 

How prescient Stewart’s statements have become. Like other female celebrities, the media has wasted no time trumpeting Jenner’s every move and outfit. Compare this to how she was treated before her public transition and the double standard becomes abundantly clear.

Jon Stewart on the Charleston shooting:

I didn’t do my job today. I’ve got nothing for you in terms of jokes and sounds because of what happened in South Carolina. And maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run or this wasn’t such a common occurrence, maybe I could have pulled out of the spiral. But I didn’t.

I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist. I’m confident though, that by acknowledging it – by staring into that and seeing it for what it is…We still won’t do jack shit. Yeah, that’s us. And that’s the part that blows my mind.

I don’t want to get into the political argument of guns and things. What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves…

If this had been what we thought was Islamic terrorism, it would fit into our [narrative]. We invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and [lost] thousands of American lives and now fly unmanned death machines over like five or six different counties, all to keep Americans safe. We’ve got to do whatever we can – we’ll torture people. We’ve got to do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. But nine people shot in a church, what about that? “Hey, what are you going go to do? Crazy is as crazy is, right?”

That’s the part that I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around. And you know it’s gonna go down the same path. “This is a terrible tragedy.” They are already using the nuanced language of lack of effort for this.

This is a terrorist attack. This is a violent attack on the Emanuel Church in South Carolina which is a symbol for the black community. It has stood in that part of Charleston for a hundred and some years and has been attacked viciously many times – as many black churches have. And to pretend that – I heard someone on the news say – “tragedy has visited this church”. This wasn’t a tornado. This was a racist. This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater. So the idea that – I hate to even use this pun – but this one is black and white. There’s no nuance here. And we’re gonna keep pretending like, “I don’t get it, what happened. This one guy lost his mind.”

But we are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it. And I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it. In South Carolina, the roads that people drive on are named for Confederate generals who fought to keep black people from being able to drive freely on that road. That’s insanity. That’s racial wallpaper. You can’t allow that.

Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them – who wanted to start some kind of civil war. The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina and the roads are named for Confederate generals. And the white guy is the one who feels his country’s being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves.

And that’s the thing – Al Qaeda, all those guys, ISIS – they’re not shit compared to the damage that we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis.


I got nothing for you, in terms of jokes and sounds. Because of what happened in South Carolina. And maybe if I wasn’t nearing the end of the run, or this wasn’t such a common occurrence, maybe I could’ve pulled out of the spiral, but I didn’t. So I honestly have nothing.