SAN FRANCISCO, CaliforniaLess than three years after he signed off for the last time as host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart is back.
Not only is he closing out the Clusterfest comedy festival with his first West Coast stand-up gig in 15 years on Sunday nightbefore heading out on tour with Dave Chappellebut during an onstage Q&A session with the San Francisco Chronicles Peter Hartlaub earlier in the afternoon, Stewart also announced his highly anticipated follow-up as a writer-director after 2014s Rosewater.
Asked if he has plans to make any more movies, Stewart first joked that hes currently working on getting another journalist arrested so he can write that story. Then he cracked a joke about making a film featuring cars that turn into fighting robots. Finally, he told the audience of fans what the movie will actually be about.
A bit cryptically, Stewart said he likes to write about the climate as opposed to the weather, adding, So hopefully this movie is kind of my interpretation of our what our political process is right now. He told the crowd that after he leaves San Francisco hell be heading down to Los Angeles to start reading the script aloud with some friends and hopes people will be able to see the film sometime in the not too distant future.
Even as he has stepped away from the spotlight over the past couple of years, Stewart still has plenty to say about Americas political process. While he said there is nothing he misses about having a nightly platform on television, he is still clearly hyper-engaged in the machinations of the Trump era.
When the conversation turned to Stewarts upcoming set at Clusterfest, the moderator suggested that some fans might be hoping that he will slay the dragon, so to speak, when he hits the main stage outside on Civic Center Plaza.
Asked if thats something they should expect, Stewart deadpanned, Yes. It ends here. Tonight, to huge cheers from the audience. I will say this, he added. It speaks to the yearning in America right now that this is a dragon that can be slayed. And I think that he will be defeated by better ideas.
Everybodys looking for a shortcut, Stewart continued. Its really quite simple. What is the opposition party? Oh yeah, the Democrats. If they could come with like, I dont know what you would call it, a set of ideas. And then they would say them in a way that didnt seem fucking weird. And then, like, the people wouldunderstanding how the Electoral College worksvote and then Im assuming at that point he has to leave.
In other words: Its not going to be a comedian.
Stewarts primary message boiled down to these words: We mistake cultural power for power. He admitted that he feels oddly culpable for this phenomenon as host of The Daily Show for 16 years. While he took great cathartic satisfaction in the segments he did on that show, he also recognized that there is a corrosive thing that happens to you when your life is based on impotent rage.
When a clip of him or John Oliver or Samantha Bee eviscerating someone on the right went viral, Stewart would think, Great. What happens next? Meanwhile, the Tea Party was off the highway by Stuckeys taking over school boards.
To some extent, that is what will make America great again, Stewart said. What well see is the transformative power that the fear that a leader like Trump puts into regular people, that they begin to take matters into their own hands at a local level. That will be the change.
Samantha Bee, who was Stewarts longest-serving correspondent on The Daily Show and has been in the news this week for calling Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt, came up again during an audience Q&A session that ended the hour-long event. Stewart told a story about the couple of times he met with President Obama in the Oval Office, a fact that was characterized as being nefarious in some way when it was reported in 2015.
Please understand that a lot of what the right does, and its maybe their greatest genius, is theyve created a code of conduct that they police, that they themselves dont have to, in any way, abide, Stewart said.
The right described him as a tool of the Obama presidency, because he made two visits to the White House. Meanwhile, Trump spoke to the head of Fox [News] and strategized with him on a weekly basis and uses their on-air talent to as advisors. He told liberals, Dont get caught in a trap of thinking you can live up to a code of integrity that will be enough for the propagandist right. There isnt. And so, create your own moral code to live by, but dont be fooled into trying to make concessions that you think will mollify them.
This brought him to Sam Bee, who was essentially forced to apologize for her remarks this past week after the White House called for TBS to cancel her show. They dont give a shit about the word cunt, he said of the Trump administration. That is probablyhe says that instead of please, Im guessing. (And it is true that there are numerous reports of Trump himself using the "c-word" word over the years, including one on camera.)
Seeming to imply that Bee shouldnt have apologized, Stewart said there is nothing anyone can do to make them give up this were the real victims game, because, its a game, its a strategy and its working.
Despite all of this, Stewart at least attempted to end the talk on a positive note. After briefly entertaining the notion of running for presidentweve clearly lowered the bar, so why not me? I say crazy shit all the timehe gave the audience some advice on how to stay hopeful in these dark times.
Do you know what Xanax is? he asked. No, heres what Im going to say, and its going to sound bizarre. Im incredibly optimistic. After spending some time in very conservative communities, Stewart said hes come to realize that the divisions that occur are real, but the toxicity is not necessarily.
The way our culture is built now, he said, Disagreements become arguments, arguments become fights, fights harden into feuds. And feuds harden into battles and wars. And thats where we are. But it doesnt have to be that way.
Stewart explained that he has close friends and family who voted for Trump. Not only do I not try to avoid them, I love them, he said. Because they have other qualities that I think are exceptional.