Toronto: Jon Stewart on Not Getting Too Serious With 'Rosewater'

Courtesy of Open Road Films
'Rosewater'

'The Daily Show' host insists his Iranian prison movie is one more way to portray political absurdity

Don't tell Jon Stewart that leaving behind his band of merry pranksters on The Daily Show to write and direct Rosewater exposed his secret serious side.

"This film doesn't feel like I got serious," Stewart told a Toronto Film Festival Mavericks session on Sunday regarding his theatrical drama about Iranian Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari's five-month imprisonment in Iran after his appearance on Stewart's TV show.

"It feels like another way of filtering a point of view through a story," America's satirist-in-chief added.

During his informal conversation at the Princess of Wales Theater, Stewart insisted Rosewater's serious tone — two thirds of the drama is set in an Iranian prison — signals no big departure from daily political satire.

"Satire is a process through which idiots like myself cope. … We make fun because I'm not sure what else to do," Stewart said of his daily comic take on political and world events.

"When your country invades another country for reasons no one can quite be sure of, that's deadly serious. And that's a feeling of responsibility to the world of shame," he added.

Stewart said The Daily Show deals with that shame by finding the absurdity within current events. "For me, that's not 'unserious.' It's the deepest seriousness that I could explore within that," he argued.

Of course, Rosewater as a movie has more permanence than a daily TV show. "For better or for worse, film is forever," Stewart noted.

On the jump from TV to movie directing, the veteran funnyman said he was still producing content, only without the baseline and support of The Daily Show.

"There were moments where we were filming a scene and I was like, 'I am [Stanley] Kubrick,' " Stewart recalled with his arms lifted skyward.

And other times he recognized his rookie mistakes.

That's unlike The Daily Show, where after 16 years Stewart has surrounded himself with a machine to magnify his comic triumphs and mask wasted opportunities.

"What's great about that show is the collaborative nature of it and the fact that inspiration can come from anywhere in the building," he said.

Stewart added that he enjoyed the three-month break to make Rosewater and knew John Oliver would likely leave to host his own comedy show after filling in for him.

"Once you get the ring, it's hard to go back to just being the hobbit," he said.

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