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Less than 10 days after he announced that he would be stepping down as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart opened up about what he would like the show to look like after he leaves and what he’ll miss about the daily grind.
Stewart was one of the guests on February’s “Employee of the Month” show, hosted by Catie Lazarus, at Joe’s Pub in New York. His interview with Lazarus in front of a small crowd on Thursday night marked some of his first public comments since he announced his Daily Show departure.
The Comedy Central show where Stewart has spent more than 15 years dominated the 45-minute discussion, part of a lineup that also included singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright and pickpocket turned storyteller Sherman “OT” Powell. But Stewart also talked about his experience acting in the oft-maligned Death to Smoochy, directing this fall’s Rosewater and how an accident involving some bean bag chairs and a bunch of fish tanks led him to get fired from his first job, where his brother was the one who had to give him the boot.
About midway through the discussion, which was being recorded for a video and podcast that will be posted in the next few days, Lazarus asked Stewart for his thoughts on who should replace him. There are plenty of suggestions floating around online for who should take Stewart’s place, and Viacom exec Doug Herzog admitted last week that Comedy Central has a shortlist, but Stewart declined to name any specific people he would like to see replace him. Instead, he talked about what he’d like to see from the next host, whoever that person is.
“What I want to see there is the next iteration of this idea,” Stewart said. “I feel like the tributaries of my brain combined with the rigidity of the format. I feel like I used every permutation of that I could possibly use. … I would love to see the next iteration of that, like John Oliver was able to apply our process to a more considered thing, and it’s exciting to watch it evolve and see it mutate and change and fill different gaps and different ideas. That’s the part that I’m looking forward to seeing.”
Oliver, however, likely won’t be the next Daily Show host, with Stewart’s one-time heir apparent earlier this week signing on to host HBO’s Last Week Tonight through 2017.
Stewart also declined to reveal exactly what he planned to do next, but he echoed many of the themes from his Daily Show announcement, saying again that he has “a lot of ideas,” and that the need to spend more time at home was an important part of his decision.
“I just needed more flexibility,” he said, alluding to his rigorous Daily Show schedule. “I got maybe four or five more years with the kids until they really don’t want anything to do with me. And I’m just not there. You can’t [work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.] for 16 years and think you’re going to be able to tell them to not smoke pot. You can’t show up at 9 p.m. and go, ‘Don’t get high. OK, goodnight, sweetheart.'”
But he’s not “retiring,” Stewart, who sported a grey hoodie and black leather jacket, was quick to note when that word was brought up, adding that he’s not shuffling off to Florida.
“I feel like I’m going to work maybe more I’ll just be able to do it [closer] to [my family],” he said.
Stewart admitted he “would like to” direct more films, like he did during the summer of 2013 with Rosewater. But he indicated he’s also leaving because he didn’t want to get complacent.
“I think I got to a certain point where I thought you shouldn’t stay somewhere just because you can,” he said.
And as he said in his announcement, when he mentioned how much he’d miss the people he worked with, he revealed how “the collaborative environment” of the show, where struggles turn into great ideas, is what he’ll miss most.
“The thing I’ll miss the most I think is that sort of thoughtful conversation in the morning that turns into a rewrite dance party,” he said. “That feeling of … we’re all bereft and we’re having a very tough conversation in the morning and then finding something by 4:30 or 5 in that rewrite room that still gives us that stupid, childlike jolt of joy, that … joy machine. The actual being on TV part has become sort of peripheral to the experience of making it. And I’ll miss the experience of making it much more than the experience of presenting it.”
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