Talking at a New Jersey fundraiser with Stephen Colbert over the weekend, Jon Stewart admitted that back in 1999, when he took over The Daily Show, he nearly quit after a few months, citing the “assholes” he inherited from his predecessor.
Via The Huffington Post:
“What I did not realize is, a lot of the people who worked there were assholes,” Stewart said. He ultimately decided to stick around for the job although he said that it took him about two and a half years to get comfortable. But his decision to stay came after much resistance from Kilborn’s previous staff, many of whom Stewart inherited.
I can definitely see that. Kilborn was smug at times almost to the point of insufferableness, and while it usually worked in the context of that iteration of The Daily Show, I can imagine that co-existing with the same staff — some of whom may have come over from ESPN with Kilborn — that tailored their writing toward Kilborn’s comedic pomposity might have been prickly.
Stephen Colbert, who was one of those staffers on Kilborn’s The Daily Show that Stewart inherited, also talked about his competitive relationship with Stewart after he took over, and how it shaped Colbert into the man he is today.
Colbert compared his and Stewart’s relationship to that of musicians Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen. Early in his career, Costello tried desperately to emulate Springsteen, but in failing to mimic the New Jersey rocker, Costello developed his own personal style.
“I tried to be like Jon Stewart,” Colbert explained. “And by trying to be him, I found myself.”
In the interview, Stewart also cited Hugh Grant as the worst guest he’s ever had on The Daily Show, comparing him unfavorably to past dictators who have been guest. Ouch.
Related: If you’re curious about what happened to Kilborn? In 2010, he attempted to get a syndicated show similar to his version of The Daily Show off the ground, but The Kilborn File was not extended past its six week test run. Last anyone heard, he was developing a sitcom for ABC.