Earlier this week, former-The Daily Show host Jon Stewart expressed regret for not having done more to make the Comedy Central series more diverse during his tenure. “The river that we were getting the material from [was] polluted by the same inertia. And you had to say to them, send me women, send me black people. And all of a sudden, women got funny… but they’d been funny all along. We just hadn’t actively done enough to mine that,” he said on The Breakfast Club. Hiring more non-white males is one of the reasons why Stewart thinks The Daily Show is “better” under Trevor Noah.
Stewart recently appeared on The Howard Stern Show to promote his new movie, Irresistible, as well as discuss his time on The Daily Show, which he hosted from 1999 through 2015. “When we started, it was [that] sort of Harvard Lampoon school of pasty white guys sitting in a room… Evolving the show past that took a really long time. It was a lot of work and oftentimes it came with defensiveness,” he said. Stewart explained that one of the issues was that The Daily Show, and many shows both then and now, would often hire interns, but “any intern who could afford to take three months off on college and spend that time polishing your grapes is gonna to come from a wealthy background. So, all the people you were hiring were all socioeconomically at a very high level.”
Stewart admitted “it took us a long time to fix” that and one way was by paying interns.
“By paying the interns, suddenly you’re getting a much more diverse group of people that are coming in,” he added. “What we did before was diversity for diversity sake. It was ‘We don’t have enough women writers, let’s hire a woman. We don’t have enough black writers, let’s hire a black person.’ But what we realized is we weren’t changing the system, we were just granting access to a club everybody should have had access to in the first place.”
Stewart added, “It took 16 years to change it at a glacial pace. Because that kind of mindset to me, because I didn’t grow up in it… it’s not a part of me. For Trevor, it’s a part of him. It flows from him naturally… It makes it better. The show is better.” And wouldn’t you know? Stewart was on last night’s episode, being interviewed by Noah.