Wyatt Cenac’s Uncomfortable Daily Show Story Is a Reminder Jon Stewart’s Not Perfect, Either
There’s been a lot of commotion over upcoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s August 6th departure from is
institution job rapidly approaches, because he’s said some pretty disappointing things in his comedy. However, he recently apologized and admitted to being a work-in-progress himself, and this story from Wyatt Cenac about a time he felt Jon Stewart crossed a line is a reminder that so is everyone else.
And it wasn’t in Stewart’s distant past, either. It all took place during the 2012 presidential campaigns when Herman Cain was running for the Republican nomination, and Stewart was under fire for an impression of Cain that some found offensive. On an episode of WTF With Marc Maron, former Daily Show writer Wyatt Cenac recounted his objections to Stewart’s planned response segment titled “Everything I Do Is Racist” (via Deadline):
I was the one black writer there. It was this thing where it’s like, when you’re the one—whether you want to or not—you’re speaking for everybody. I felt like I had to speak for all the minorities, because there’s nobody speaking for them.
Being the sole representative of any marginalized group is a tough job, and it’s one we’ve written on extensively as being a problem in TV—especially “late night” talk shows. It wasn’t made easier by Stewart’s response to his concerns in the writers’ room, either:
He got incredibly defensive. I remember he was like, “What are you trying to say? There’s a tone in your voice.” I was like, “There’s no tone. It bothered me.” … And then he got upset. He stood up and he was just like, “Fuck off. I’m done with you.” And he just started screaming that to me, and he screamed it a few times. … “Fuck off! I’m done with you.” And he stormed out. I didn’t know if I had been fired.
If that flies in the face of your impression of Jon Stewart from watching him on The Daily Show, you’re not alone. But I’m not writing about this to vilify Stewart, although I hope he apologized and made amends, because none of that sounds like an acceptable reaction to legitimate concerns—especially concerns from someone whose opinion on the subject means more than your own.
I’d rather point out that we all make mistakes. Everyone. We’ve all said something we shouldn’t have and regretted it. We’ve all gotten angry when we should’ve taken criticism in stride and used it to better ourselves. And hopefully, we all learned from it—even Jon Stewart. There are people who deserve a bit of our ire for their unapologetic awfulness, but most people are open and willing to listen, learn, and improve if we’re willing to help them.
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