'The Detour's' Jason Jones on State of Late Night and Decision to Leave 'The Daily Show'

"It was kind of a perfect storm of the perfect time to go," Jones tells THR about his exit from his TV home for a decade.
Courtesy of TBS

Full Frontal may have launched first, but the second half of husband-and-wife team Jason Jones and Samantha Bee’s TBS takeover is about to commence.

The Detour premieres Monday, though the first episode was posted early online, and TBS is so confident about the show that they’ve already ordered a second season. The series, which also stars Jones, follows the misadventures of a family trying to go on vacation, where the patriarch, played by Jones, struggles to keep his family’s vacation intact despite such misfortunes as the occasional accidental foray with the kids into a strip club. Jones and Bee serve as executive producers on each other’s shows, and Jones says he has a multiyear plan for further, non-vacation adventures on The Detour.

The Hollywood Reporter talked to Jones about his new cable home, leaving The Daily Show and the state of late-night TV.

How did you decide to leave The Daily Show?

It was one of those things where you know, how long does anyone work at a job before they get restless? And it was a certain time period. Ten years is about the right number for me, I think. I had been actively pitching other stuff along the way and knowing full well that development is a slow, slow process. If at first you don’t succeed, you try, try, try, try, try again, and tenth time was the charm in development. And we shot the pilot and almost coincidentally when Jon [Stewart] announced he was leaving, three days later we were picked up. So it was kind of a perfect storm of the perfect time to go.

What can you do on TBS that you can’t do on one of the non-cable networks?

It’s just sensibility-wise. The idea of a strip club doesn’t exist on network television. Real life doesn’t exist on a network television comedy. They just don’t let you travel down any road that is presumably “dark.” They focus-group everything too much and don’t trust the people who come up with the ideas. Network was just never the right fit with what I think is funny.

Late night has changed a lot lately. What do you think of the landscape now?

Well, I’m glad there are a pair of breasts there finally. So I’ll say that. And those pair of breasts are doing phenomenally. That’s what I’ll say. I can somehow be complimentary and sexist in the same breath.

Have you watched the new version of The Daily Show?

To tell you the truth, I haven’t. When I walked away, just over a year ago, I would always watch, “Jon Stewart eviscerates this person,” but then when he went up, I was in production, so I wasn’t there to catch any of it. I was so busy. And then, it was a feeling of going, oh, now that I’m away from the dregs of this political world, I don’t have to watch any of this stuff anymore. This is great. I feel really good about myself, finally. I don’t have to watch Fox News. So my soul started un-blackening and I started feeling really good, I could breathe fresh air again, and then Sam’s show started up and I fell right back into it. So I honestly haven’t had much of a chance to check it out.

How do you think Trevor Noah’s doing with it?

To tell you the truth, I just haven’t watched it. I just don’t know. I divorced myself from that world. And I still have a lot of great friends who work over there and I see them all the time and they’re like, "Hey, that thing was pretty good." And I’m like, "What thing?" It’s like, oh, that thing, it’s everywhere, man! And I’m like, oh, it’s not everywhere, I didn’t see it. When you step out of that world … although let me say this: I still love my fake news. Sunday nights I tune into John Oliver, a good friend of mine, and Monday nights, obviously, you know what I’m watching.

How’s Colbert doing on CBS?

I just did him, actually! “I did him,” that sounds so douchey. Let me rephrase. Yeah, I was on his show last week. We had a great time. Stephen is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, honestly, and the things I’ve seen of him have been — I’m in bed by 9:30 [p.m.], but the stuff online the next day, he’s always funny. He’s hilarious. We had a great conversation, because I replaced Stephen on The Daily Show, and I was lamenting replacing an icon and he said, "Uh, yeah, I have no idea what that’s like."

Critics really seem to love Full FrontalGiven how positive that response has been, is there any wish that Sam had gotten The Daily Show? Do you think she should have, or do you think this is the better fit?

Listen, I’ll say this. We struck gold in terms of timing. Honestly. Jon is irreplaceable, he really is. He is the greatest satirist of all time. No one can replace him. No one can replace him. I say that very emphatically. People can do the job and do a great job at the job, but no one can replace him. So anyone coming into the position was unenviable at the least, and taking however long Sam took off, eight months, being off television, and then coming back, people remembered that feeling they got when they watched that old regime and missed it and loved it and are tuning in now and really enjoying it.

She’s an executive producer on The Detour. What’s her involvement like?

She was there in the writing room. We describe our working relationship as a chainsaw and a scalpel, and I’ll let you figure out who is who. I think you can guess. She was always a great editor for me. She was always the person who was like, "This is too far, this is too far, this is too far," so I’d pull back to her. So she was there during the edit and once we started the production, she stepped away to start forming her show. And then vice versa. When I wrapped up production, I jumped over to hers as the same sort of sounding board.

How much on the show is pulled from real life?

I don’t know, you just looking for a number? 50 percent.

Is there stuff your kids have actually done?

Listen, everything sort of happens. I only write about stuff that sort of happens to me and then I blow it up into a much funnier version. Conversations that we have with our kids are present in the show. Stuff that’s happened to me in the past has happened in the show. I did once wander into a strip club not knowing it was a strip club because upstate [New York] is just littered with these nondescript buildings that you think are just roadside diners and then you get in there and it’s all naked women and truckers, which are crazy places. So yeah, you pull from your own life, obviously, but it’s way more interesting onscreen than it is in your actual life.

The Detour premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TBS.

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